These cosmic emanations are thought to be hurled across space when stars start throwing their weight around – for example when they collapse into black holes or when pairs of super-dense neutron stars start to spin closer and closer to each other. These processes put massive strains on the fabric of space-time, pushing and stretching it so that ripples of gravitational energy radiate across the universe.
At least, that is the theory. To date, no one has actually detected a gravitational wave. The Ruthe laboratory, a joint UK-German project known as Geo600, has been built to overcome this failure and to show these disruptions in space-time do exist, thus proving that Albert Einstein was absolutely right – and utterly wrong – about gravity.
It is a startling paradox. Harald Lück, a scientist at Geo600, explained: “In his general theory of relativity, Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves, which he said would be set off by highly energetic events objects like supernovae or neutron star collisions. However, he also predicted we would never be able to observe these waves because they would be too weak to be detected by the time they reached Earth. We intend to prove him right in the first instance and wrong in the second.”