#GravitationalWaves ripple through social media | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 11.02.2016
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#GravitationalWaves ripple through social media

American scientists are expected to announce they have detected gravitational waves after measuring the shock of a collision between two black holes. Theorized by Einstein, the phenomenon had never been observed before.

This afternoon, US scientists will hold a press conference to discuss gravitational waves, a physical phenomenon first described 100 years ago by Albert Einstein in his theory of General Relativity.

Scientists working for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) are widely expected to announce the success of their experiment to spot the shock waves produced by the collision of two black holes at the speed of light, a cosmic phenomenon of gigantic magnitude, thought to cause ripples in the fabric of space and time and which has never been effectively measured since it was theorized by Einstein.

Echoed by scientists throughout social media, the news has many science enthusiasts as well as professional physicists and astronomers excited.

Uninitiated users, for the most part just as enthusiastic, were sometimes unsure of what the waves really are and what their discovery could mean for science.

Tweeting astrophysicists were quickly confronted with the difficulty of explaining such an abstract and complex phenomenon to the wider public. Others struggled with the added difficulty of doing so in a mere 140 characters or less.

Many scientists used the news to showcase their comic skills, sometimes mocking past scientific theories on gravity.

One of them, Us astronomer Phil Plait, joked about rapper Kanye West. The artist recently changed the name of his upcomming album, which was for a short time supposed to be called "Waves." This had led some scientists to ask him to change it back to honor Einstein’s work.

Others in the scientific community paid tribute to the researchers at LIGO by posting videos of themselves imitating the sound their colleagues expected to hear when detecting the waves after the black holes had collided.

Described as a "chirp," the sound was widely tweeted about by scientists using the hashtag #chirpForLIGO.

The discovery has not been confirmed yet, but many already believe the LIGO experiment has been successful after a leaked email showed an enthusiastic researcher's announcing positive results to his colleagues.

Regardless, many scientists already expect the potential discovery to be the year’s most significant scientific accomplishment.

One of them, Madrid-based physicist Hector Iglesias, was not hiding his joy: "I like the smell of Nobel Prizes in the morning," he tweeted.

The press conference is scheduled to take place at 1530 UTC and will be broadcast live online.

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