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Thursday 13 December 2018
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Gravity waves search is doomed to failure

THE EDITOR: Following the excitement of the national election, there is great excitement in the international scientific community as another phase of an ambitious experiment involving researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology in the US has begun.

Referred to as LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory), this experiment is searching for gravity waves predicted 100 years ago by Albert Einstein in his theory of relativity.

Efforts to detect these illusive waves believed to originate deep in the cosmos have been going on for the past 50 years, completely without success.

This particular experiment was first turned on in 2002 and up to 2010 failed to detect any gravity waves despite the confident expectations of scientists.

It is interesting that all of the failures of this and previous experiments were excused on the grounds that they were not sufficiently sensitive and this rationale is routinely used as justification for expenditure on more sensitive apparatus.

Over the past five years a major system upgrade was again undertaken and hundreds of researchers in the US and around the world are hoping that this enhanced detector, which by now must cost well over US$500 million, will succeed in detecting these waves. Such a discovery will be a very significant scientific development and the principal researchers will no doubt receive the Nobel Prize.

With this in mind and given the heavy investment in financial and human resources, reputations and careers, the stakes are extremely high. One of the LIGO scientists stated, “I hope that nature rewards us,” while another said, “If nature shows a little bit of cooperation, we will make history.” However nature does not follow the desires or dictates of men, but as history has shown is more likely to reveal her secrets to those who observe her with an open mind and go where the evidence leads.

I have for the past several years followed the evidence and have concluded that, contrary to scientific orthodoxy, relativity theory is wrong. I contend therefore that these researchers are looking for a phenomenon that simply does not exist and despite their entreaties to nature, I am of the view that LIGO will end its latest search in another disappointing failure.

The next few years will be very interesting as the results of advanced LIGO will give us greater insight into who is right and who is wrong.

Professor Stephan Gift Faculty of Engineering, UWI

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