When American physicists Russell Hulse and Joseph Taylor discovered the first pulsar in a binary star system in 1974, their discovery and analysis of their findings would lead to their winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1993, for the first indirect detection of gravitational waves as first predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916. What scientists seek now is the first direct detection.
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is designed to directly detect gravitational waves and may well have found them based on a controversial tweet posted by a well-respected theoretical physicist, Lawrence Krauss of Arizona State University’s Department of Physics. Krauss does make follow-up tweet saying he is not part of the LIGO collaboration nor associated with anyone there, but as an important and accomplished dark energy theorist that has every reason to be very interested in the results.
The general public and the scientific community are very skeptical and for good reason given the announcement by a non-participant in the experiment, as well as an anonymous source. Too many times in the recent past, from the OPERA “faster-than-light” neutrino controversy that proved to be false via an engineering malfunction, to a CERN scientist “outing” a Higgs boson discovery which turned out to be within experimental error therefore false, to the BICEP2 “confirmation” of Inflationary Big Bang “proof” that was then shown via the proper channels of peer review and discussion to be inconclusive, have well-intentioned scientists trying to “share the joy”, first, that wasn’t, turned out to be wrong.
While many may criticize Krauss for stealing the thunder of the actual experimenters, the fact remains that such a discovery would propel it to one of the greatest scientific achievements of all time. It would also set the stage for future physics discoveries, such as the unification of quantum field theory and general relativity into quantum gravity, which itself would enable us to devise state-of-the-art propulsion systems to quickly get us to the planets, and the stars.