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GLASGOW University professor Sheila Rowan is at the cutting edge of science, leading the hunt to prove the existence of gravitational waves.

First predicted by Einstein, the waves are thought to be ripples in space-time caused by cosmic events such as the merging of two galaxies.

These ripples move through space and, if detected, could provide new information on the beginnings of the universe and its future.

Sheila said: "I have always been interested in physics and astronomy.

Lots of people are, we can all look up at the sky and wonder what is out there. A lot is unknown.

"Imagine gravitational waves by picturing the universe as a thin sheet of rubber. If you place a heavy object in the centre the sheet would curve and bend.

"If more heavy objects are placed on, it would bend more and objects may roll together. This would cause ripples."

In practice, these "heavy objects" are stars and galaxies, while the curves in the rubber sheet would be curves in space-time. Gravitational ripples flow unobstructed through space, so can provide info on how matter moves," Sheila said.

"They could tell us about how the universe began and what may happen when it ends."


MAKING WAVES: Sheila Rowan
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 5, 2009
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