Physicists have measured the sound of "nothingness" at room temperature – an important step in our future ability to listen in the universe.
You can think of this a little this way – we are now able to measure how a part of the ubiquitous "background noise" of space interacts with our equipment, which hopefully will help us tune it up .
After all, the whole universe is crammed with the static of quantum physics, and in order to lift the weak echoes of distant astronomical giants – such as the gravitational waves that slide away from the merger of a black hole, for example – we must be able we set the quantum static system.
But let's take a step back. What exactly does it mean to measure the sound of "nothingness"?
So far, most of us know there is nothing empty in the vacuum ̵
This experiment explores the phenomenon called quantum radiation pressure that occurs when particles interact with detectors such as the LIGO – the laser interferometer gravity wave observatory in the United States, responsible for confirming the existence of gravitational waves just over three years ago.
This quantum radiation pressure becomes a kind of noise that can interfere with the results. But, like other quantum phenomena, we usually have to study it at ultra-low temperatures to keep the particles still and understand what's going on.
But a team of researchers from the Louisiana State University has actually measured this quantum effect in real conditions – at room temperature.
This is useful because it means that we can now apply the findings to the real
This experiment is done using miniature versions of LIGO – those with full size are a pair of observatories located at a distance of nearly 2000 miles.
By comparing the alignment of laser beams radiated at a distance, in 2015 LIGO was able to take small cosmic shocks caused by a pair of black holes spaced 1.3 billion light-years apart.
The merging of a black hole sounds like it will be strong, but these first waves have found a distorted space on a small, small scale – about 1 / 1000th of a proton diameter.
Yes, they took two objects ten times more than the mass of our Sun that collapsed together to make this mind-boggling little wave.
I'm only improving when making the split spatial distortion caused by the intense movements of massive objects
But despite our improvements, we still get only a small part of the puzzle – to "hear" a wider range of sounds in advanced versions of LIGO will require much more sensitive equipment.
"Given the need for detectors for more sensitive gravitational waves, it is important to study the effects of quantum radiation pressure in a system similar to Advanced LIGO," said physicist Thomas Corbett. conveniently – measuring quantum radiation pressure when it arises in detectors such as LIGO, future gravity wave detectors will be able to emit even weaker signatures from smaller or more distant collisions.
And this is an important first step
We may not be able to dampen the quantum whisper, but now that we have a better idea of what sounds, we can hear what the giants say.
This study was published in Nature.