When astrophysicists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee helped to confirm the existence of gravity waves, their most significant contribution was in the field of data management and analysis: A UWM supercomputer was among the first machines to identify the ripple in space-time created by the merger of two black holes 1.3 billion years ago.
The data were gathered by miles-long, L-shaped, super-sensitive laser devices in Louisiana and Washington state, and sounded, when properly analyzed, like a chirp. Gravity waves are the last prediction of Albert Einstein’s 100-year-old general theory of relativity to be confirmed and are expected to change our understanding of the universe.
➜ About 1,000 scientists worldwide worked on the project, but it was Prof. Patrick Brady’s team at UWM that led the way in devising a method to detect the black hole merger.
➜ Brady’s Center for Gravitation, Cosmology and Astrophysics raised $3.1 million in extramural funding in 2014-15, about 10 percent of the campus-wide total for research.
➜ The science is complex, but some 200 people turned out for a UWM presentation on gravity waves at Anodyne Coffee, 224 W. Bruce St., in February.
➜ The gravity waves announcement was based on just one-third of the data collected during the project’s first wave. New revelations may be announced soon.