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On the Crest of a Gravity Wave

Credit:Henning Dalhoff / Science Photo Library

Credit:Henning Dalhoff / Science Photo Library

By Stephen Luntz

Gravitational wave detectors may soon provide a new way of viewing the universe, but Australia has passed up the chance to have one located here – for now at least.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The recent detection of the Higgs boson represented the final frontier for the Standard Model of Particle Physics, for once putting science on the front page of the world's newspapers.

The search for the Higgs boson parallels the quest to detect gravitational waves, a key feature of General Relativity. Both require enormous facilities to detect something both subtle and hugely significant, and in both cases it is hoped that their discovery will be simply the first step to far greater insight into the workings of the universe.

Within a few years facilities around the world are expected to detect gravitational waves for the first time. In the process they will launch a new era in studying the universe, including information about its birth, its most catastrophic events and the particles that make it up.

It is likely that Australian equipment will play a key role. However, none of the initial observations will be made locally, as a funding window for an Australian-based detector has closed.

“People talk about the Square Kilometre Array as enabling us to detect the radiation from the Big Bang, but that is not strictly accurate,” says Prof Jesper Munch of Adelaide University’s Department of Physics. “For the first 300 million years the universe was opaque to all electromagnetic radiation. However, gravitational waves could propagate through this...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.