The Physics of Light, Gravity Waves and Ripples in Spacetime

NASA scientists held a Q&A on Facebook today, giving the FB community a chance to ask questions of the first scientists to observe ripples in spacetime–light and gravity waves.

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tiny mirror cat

Many cats are frightened and aggressive toward the first mirror they see; some recognize their reflections aren’t enemies, and can be safely ignored. Our cat Tuesday’s aptitude for optics, the physics of light,  became obvious when we caught her using mirrors as a tool instead of ignoring them or fearing them.

Tuesday uses the mirror in the living room as a stalking aid. She positions herself  where the angle of reflection allows her to spot someone just before they round the corner and enter the room from one of two adjacent doors. She likes to time her ankle-pounces for maximum shock value.

She never ignores mirrors. She’s a beautiful cat, perhaps a touch vain. She will glance into mirrors as she passes, swish her tail, check her whisker alignment, admire the bright calico pattern of her fur, and walk on. When we are holding her and looking in the mirror, she looks into the eyes of our reflections when we speak, rather than turning around to face us.

Tuesday’s early life is a mystery; we do know she had an amazing owner who spent the first weeks of her life introducing her to a huge variety of situations; she is the least fearful cat we’ve ever met, and responds to new situations with curiosity rather than fear or aggression.  Perhaps that owner helped her understand that mirrors were safe, and Tuesday discovered how to use them to her advantage.

kitty mirror reflection

NASA scientists held a Q&A on Facebook today, giving the FB community a chance to ask questions of the first scientists to observe ripples in spacetime–light and gravity waves. (There were good questions at first, before the Tinfoil Hat Crowd arrived and started braying and bleating; to find the actual questions, check out NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center). One of the discoveries I find most intriguing is the fact that the gravity waves/ripples arrived BEFORE the light; photons were being caught up in the debris of the two neutron stars colliding and delayed! I didn’t even know that could happen! It’s as though the gravity waves were faster than light!

pulsar-1250499

Tuesday is rolling her eyes at me; she obviously believes the gravity waves had a head start. It’s difficult for her, having to come up with tutorials for me; she did find a way to express her opinion by coming in a close second when I called her and Himeko into the kitchen for treats. She’s faster than the dog; she didn’t launch from her cozy bed until she heard the bag crinkle and knew the offer was genuine. Probably light was delayed for intelligent reasons as well.

Author: Heather LaVonne Jensen

My labels: Writer, Metalsmith, Wife, Mother, Latter-Day-Saint

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