February 25, 2021

"Gravitational waves will give us direct information about the origin of the Universe" | Science

The gravitational waves they are the great protagonists of astrophysics. It is evident in the expression on the face of the professors of Astrophysics and Theoretical Physics, José Antonio Font and José Navarro, when they explain how they can contribute to the knowledge of the origin of the universe and how a vast path for research has been opened since they were detected in September 2015. Albert Einstein already predicted and theorized a century ago, but discarded that there was technology capable of capturing them. They are very weak. "That is why it has been so hard to detect them, they occur very, very far away, but they have a great virtue: they allow us to access undistorted information, they travel through the universe and interact with other objects, such as galaxies, they barely distort them because they are so weak that they are almost invisible, those waves coming from the first fractions of the universe would give us very direct information about the origin of the universe, "explains Navarro, surrounded by a thousand colleagues from 50 countries.

He and his partner from the Universitat de València are the organizers of the two international congresses on general relativity and on gravitational waves (gravitational waves, it is also allowed), which have come together since Monday and will run until Friday at the Valencia Conference Center, within the academic institution and the CSIC. It is the first time, in the more than 60 years of history of the first, celebrated in Spain.

Butwhat are those waves so elusive Americans Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne were awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics by LIGO, the detector of them? "They are a phenomenon inherent to Einstein's theory of General Relativity and instead of being associated with the accelerated movement of electric charges, it is associated with the accelerated movement of masses.When an electric charge moves in an accelerated manner, it produces electromagnetic radiation, as The radio and television waves, which are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, Einstein was able to realize only in a theoretical way that if we have an accelerated mass there is also an associated radiation, "says Font after the opening conference of the forum. Gravitational waves expand in spacetime at the speed of light and are generated, for example, by the collision of two black holes.

The scientists and organizers of the congress José Antonio Font (left) and José Navarro, this Monday, at the Palacio de Congreso in Valencia.

The scientists and organizers of the congress José Antonio Font (left) and José Navarro, this Monday, at the Palacio de Congreso in Valencia.

"The detection of gravitational waves is a scientific event similar to that of the Higgs particle (one of the elementary particles that predicts the standard model that, for physics, is something like the periodic table of elements for chemistry). But while the Higgs particle was about the microcosm, the universe at a short distance, on a small scale, gravitational waves now refer to the macrocosm, the universe at large scales. They are complementary, we hope they converge in the coming decades, because one of the most burning issues and the problems to solve is how to make compatible theories about very large things, such as the solar system, the galaxies, based on Einstein with the theories that dominate and understand the microcosm, quantum physics, that allow us to understand the atomic nuclei, the quark, the elementary particles. These two theories, quantum and general relativity are like water and oil, do not mix well, but nature is unique and that is why there must be a superteory that describes the universe at great scarce and also at microscale. This is one of the great challenges, "says Navarro.

This will be one of the topics addressed in the 600 talks of the congresses: among other topics, the centenary of the British eclipse expeditions of 1919 will be discussed, which confirmed Einstein's prediction of the deflection of light by massive bodies and the current state of studies about the nature of compact objects (neutron stars, black holes and exotic objects such as boson stars), the study and simulation of the collision of neutron stars and black holes in binary systems, the formation of supermassive black holes, as well as the latest results of the observations of the Event Horizon Telescope. In addition, the research on superradiance and dark matter in situations of intense gravity, the state of research in cosmology in the post-Planck era, the progress in post-Newtonian expansions and the methods of effective field theories will be addressed. It includes a debate table on the presence of women in astrophysics and a tribute to Stephen Hawking.

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