Smashing spacetime so powerfully that it wobbles like an old VCR tape sounds like a fresh, steaming plate of hyperbole. But we've already detected it. Two singularities slammed into each other like the ultimate subwoofer, blasting bass notes through the fabric of reality. Three entire solar masses were converted into gravitational wave energy -- a process over 50 times more powerful than the entire visible universe. It was so spacetime-staggering that we felt the effects over a billion light years away. On September 14, 2015, every cell in your body was gently squeezed by black holes getting it on.
Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes project
Spacetime so kinky, it's got holes going into other holes.
The measurement was made by LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory -- aka the most impressive anything on the surface of this or any other planet. It's a pair of set-squares for spacetime, two vast L-shaped installations four kilometers long on each arm, and every micrometer is in an ultrahigh vacuum. And they're on opposite sides of the country, so that they can use almost the entire North American continent as a 10-millisecond timing delay. In each, LIGO lasers bounce back and forth between mirrors more carefully isolated than Kanye West's sense of humor. The result is a ruler so accurate that when its reading varies, it's the universe that changed.