There is a glaring problem with the popular explanation of gravitational waves.

Consider: An isolated sphere of vacuum space, with no gravity coming from outside it. Now consider two massive bodies suddenly appearing in the vacuum, initially without any motion. According to gravity they will be attracted to each other and collide. Before the collision, gravity is working, but are there gravitational waves?

The basic problem here is that they detected a wave because of a specific situation where black holes were spinning around each other. Take away that specific situation, and there is no telling if gravitational waves are a general property of gravity. So why all the hype? Why wouldn’t scientists mention that the general hubbub is potentially misinformed? My guess is because they need PR stunts just like any political enterprise.

The Sokal Affair was a paper published following postmodern-sounding ideas, but after it was published the author Sokal claimed the article is nonsense. It was a blow to critics of science, and Sokal, in a statement about what he had done, accused the editors of being intellectually lazy for publishing the paper.

Strangely, the whole gravitational waves thing, making an appearance in the movie Interstellar, and found in popular books, (including the “general relativity for babies” book I have read to my toddler a few times) enjoys a lot of popular support but for equally lazy reasons.

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