“Chi” or Gravitational Waves?

My grandpa, a Primary school-educated, is a fan of “Tai Chi”.

Tai Chi
Tai Chi practitioners on a square

When I was young, I used to wake up at 5am, climbed to the top of a small hill near to my house with him, and started to move myself following grandpa’s maneuvers.

I gave up after 2 days.

After grandpa came back, showered, and made his favorite tea ready, I asked him, “Why is Tai Chi so good?”

He said something that I could not comprehend that time, “Through Tai Chi, you can feel the connection to the universe, and gradually you will see through the reality of life.”

But now, with the discovery of gravitational wave, I seemed to understand a bit.

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein

Earlier as in 1916, Albert Einstein published his theory of general relativity, claiming that massive objects cause a distortion in space and time, which is felt as gravity [1]; increased speed of mass led to change of dimensions [2].

Nevertheless, the theory remained as a mind craft of Einstein with no experimental proof.

Generations by generations of scientists researched on it, and paid numerous efforts. A a pair of gigantic instruments called Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) was set up in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana in 1990 [3].

LIGO in Hanford, Washington

LIGO uses laser light to measure and compare the length of the 2 arms. A gravitational ware interruption will stretch the arms to different extent and therefore be detected by a sensor outside the arm structure.  Sensitivity of the detector is up to 1/10,000 the width of a proton so as to measure the tiny difference of the 2 arms caused by gravitational waves. A virtual explanation of the LIGO model can be found here: Gravitational waves finally detected!

“We have detected gravitational waves. We did it!” With the announcement of David Reitze, LIGO executive director at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) [4], the whole world was excited to know that Einstein is right about universe.

conference of LIGO scientists
LIGO scientists on a media conference

On 14 September 2015, at 9:50:45 universal time—4:50 a.m. in Louisiana and 2:50 a.m. in Washington, oscillation emerged at a frequency of 35 Hertz, and sped up to 250 Hz was detected by LIGO. Though the signal disappeared 0.25 seconds later, it was clear enough to scientists that there was 0.007 second delay between the signals in Louisiana and Washington – the right timing for a light-speed wave getting through both detectors. It was predicted that the wave was caused by the collision of two black holes that are 13 billion light years away [5].

Possible locations of merging black holes
Possible location of the black hole collision

Well, well. So why the discovery of gravitational wave refreshed my memory with grandpa and “Tai Chi”? The ancient Chinese worships the balance between Yin and Yang, sun and moon, male and female. A breakage among all the elements could bring massive changes [6]. And that is why, people like my grandpa believe physical activities like Tai Chi, Five-Animals Exercise (“Wu Qin Xi”) and Chi Gong will allow people to integrate the powers from the universe and bring in health and happiness.

Don’t you think? The depiction of a “Tai Chi” symbol looks like the gravitational waves generated by binary neutron stars?
Evidence of gravitational waves discovered, US physicists say
An artist’s demonstration of binary neutron stars and the gravitational wave

Is it true? That there is delicate connections between Astrophysics and traditional Chinese believing. I have no idea. But I am more than happy to practice “Tai Chi” again with my grandpa – if I could wake up at 5am.

– By Alice Yu Yuebo (from doggyandcattyblog)


[1] http://www.space.com/17661-theory-general-relativity.html

[2] http://time.com/4217820/gravitational-waves-history/

[3] http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/02/gravitational-waves-einstein-s-ripples-spacetime-spotted-first-time

[4] http://www.ligo.org/news/media-advisory.php

[5] https://www.zhihu.com/question/40164954

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yin_and_yang


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