A little more than a week ago, a group of scientists and researchers known as the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) Scientific Collaboration published evidence that heavily suggested the existence of black holes in the universe (BBC).
Last September, gravitational waves were perceived by the two LIGO antennas in Washington and Louisiana for the first time in history. Between the two antennas, the waves that were picked up were nearly identical to each other, further enhancing the reliability of the discovery. The waves are believed to have been caused by two black holes merging (New York Times).
The evidence confirms what Albert Einstein predicted in his theory of general relativity from 1916. He asserted that gravitational waves existed, but with little evidence to prove it. This is due to the fact that there was not technology that could actually sense the waves at the time. The significance of the waves is that they serve as the first pieces of evidence that support the existence of black holes, as there really is nothing else in the universe (to our knowledge) that could create such waves (NPR).
Why does all of this matter?
For one thing, this discovery means that we have ways to examine objects that do not emit light. Until now, we have depended on the fact that an entity in the universe emits light in order for us to observe it. The existence of gravitational waves breaks that barrier, and will likely lead to further heavenly discoveries (TechInsider and Vox).
I think it is important to note that there is a slight possibility that the gravitational waves can be from something other than a black hole. The LIGOs were upgraded very shortly before they detected the gravitational waves. Since the waves reported are the first perceived gravitational waves in history, there is no benchmark for them. It is not completely certain that black holes are the only phenomena that can create gravitational waves. I think that this is really good evidence for black holes, and would be surprised if it turned out that they do not actually exist. However, I think that there should be a little more data gathered with the new LIGO technology to determine whether or not the detected waves were actually from black holes.
Do you think that the gravitational waves can prove with complete certainty that black holes exist?
Should funding for space programs be increased because of these discoveries?