Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This Day Just Got A Lot Better: At Last, Scientists Squeeze Light Beyond Quantum Limit, Thus Breaking The Measurement Barrier

Detecting gravity waves has, as everyone knows, been a big-ass goal for astrophysicists since Heinrich Hertz first detected waves transmitted across a table, god... way back in 1886. And now, cool cats: they're one step closer. God, it took 'em long enough (just kidding).

David Blair, director of the Aussie International Gravitational Research Centre, reports on The Conversation: "By literally squeezing light on a quantum level, we are refining detection instruments to an extent never seen before."

Fucking remarkably, as part of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, Blair performed the first large scale demo of a rad new measurement technique that breaks through the quantum measurement barrier that, as I recall, until now, set a pesky limit cause of the detector's sensitivity. This barrier is, of course, related to the famous Heisenberg uncertainty principle, but in gravitational wave detectors, we get that it's because of the particle-like nature of photons.

The scientists' demo proves that real gravity detectors can surpass this barrier. It's like a whole new world for gravitational wave astronomy. Shit, it's about time, you know?

Not to discredit the achievement, but I still have to question: While vibrations as small as 10^-20 m are impressive as all get-out, gravity waves from the earth-sun system are expected to be a million times smaller than this again. I guess that explains why Blair needs a massive binary system—or birth of a black hole—to have sufficient amplitude near earth? I was also kind of wondering, how come vanilla ice cream is white.