Saturday, 2 March 2013

Listen to the Universe

“There’s no doubt about it,” the Professor decided. “No doubt, what-so-ever. I really need to build one of those things.”
            Professor Kompressor had been following the story as it developed. With keen interest he had kept himself up to date as scientists tried to catch elusive gravity signals from outer space. He had shared their joy at the final breakthrough. This was the proof everyone had been waiting for. Space was indeed curved and time was wonky, just like Albert Einstein predicted all those years ago. The leaders of the effort had started out more than four decades earlier, fuelled by the enthusiasm of youth. Now they were old men, ready for retirement.
            It was a fascinating story. As an inventor the Professor was particularly keen on the technical aspects. The instruments that had been designed represented an amazing achievement. The task had seemed completely unreasonable, yet science had prevailed. Now he wanted to be part of it, share the adventure.
            Professor Kompressor went straight to the inventing studio and started putting his own device together. In principle, this was easy because he could follow the blueprints from the scientist’s instrument. In practice, it was almost impossible because the Professor worked on a tight budget. He had to make do with the materials that were available to him. This meant cutting corners and finding imaginative solutions, but this was just what Professor Kompressor was good at.
            The final construction did not look like much, a chaotic birds nest of cables of many different colours connecting various monitors and odd-looking control panels. Green laser light bounced off a few mirrors, while sensors monitored the distance the light had travelled. That was pretty much it.
            Without any real expectation that the device would work, the Professor flicked the power switch. He put on a pair of headphones to monitor the machine's output.
            At first all he could hear was noise.
            Then, all of a sudden... he started laughing.
            At that point Maud walked into the room. She’d heard him working from next door and wanted to ask if he would like a cup of tea. Three lumps of sugar and a splash of milk, as usual. She was surprised to find the Professor wearing a massive pair of headphones and laughing like he had just been told the best joke ever.
            “My goodness,” she started... “My dear Professor, what are you doing?”
            “Oh Maud,” the Professor answered, “I’m listening.”
            “I’m listening... to the Universe.”
            "And it’s amazing...”

1 comment:

  1. I wrote this while preparing an exhibit for our Science Week in March. It's hardly a classic contribution to the gravitational-wave literature, but at the same time I think it is quite amusing.

    If you are entertained by Einstein, but confused by curvature and baffled by black holes, then you may be interested in the virtual version of the exhibit;

    Visit the exhibit to:

    * Learn a bit about gravitational waves and colliding black holes.

    * Find out how creative kids up to the age of 11 (worldwide!) can enter a competition to win an exciting book.

    * Download a free short story on a somewhat related topic.