At the Institute of Physics conference Photon 04 yesterday, Professor Jim Hough, one of the UKs leading scientists, revealed that he thinks high street bookmakers are crazy to be offering odds of 100-1 on whether Gravitational Waves (wrinkles in relativity) will be discovered before 2010. He has placed a personal bet of £25 – the maximum Ladbrokes allowed him to stake. The available odds were quickly cut from an initial offering of 500-1.
Professor Jim Hough, from the University of Glasgow and one of the leaders of the UK search for Gravitational Waves, said: "I think the real odds are more like a favourite at 2-1 or 3-1, Im almost certain well discover them in the very near future. I would have had much more money on at the odds they were offering but the maximum bet they allowed me to have was £25!" Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of spacetime and are one of the more exotic predictions of Einsteins theory of gravity – General Relativity. Initially thought not to exist, the reality of gravitational waves is no longer doubted by scientists. The gradual changes in the orbit of a binary pulsar called PSR 1913 +16 (a pair of orbiting neutron stars, one of which is a pulsar emitting precisely timed radio pulses) can be explained only if angular momentum and energy is carried away from this system by gravitational waves.
Weak gravitational waves are probably passing through us all the time but are too faint to detect. Scientists are currently trying to detect the strongest waves, for example those created in violent events such as supernovae but none of the instruments looking for them have yet picked up a clear and definite signal. Improvements in the sensitivity of these instruments, and some promising initial results, should mean that scientists are very close.
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