The Surfer's Guide to Gravitational Waves

In a nutshell: Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of space time produced by violent events, like merging together two black holes or the explosion of a massive star. Unlike light (electromagnetic waves) gravitational waves are not absorbed or altered by intervening material, so they are very clean proxies of the physical process that produced them. They are expected to travel at the speed of light and, if detected, they could give precious information about the cataclysmic processes that originated them and the very nature of gravity. That’s why the direct detection of gravitational waves is such an important endeavor. Definitely worthy of a Nobel prize in physics.

Left: ’AL’ Einstein on vacation (Credits: Rick Rietveld)
Top Right: The Earth’s mass changes the curvature of space-time. Bottom Right: Gravitational waves generated by merging black holes (Credits: NASA/LIGO)