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What gravitational waves mean for the Slug Empire

This may come as a surprise to you humans, but light takes time to travel.

Boom. I just blew your feeble human brain, didn’t I?

In reality though, the relationship between light, time and space is really, really weird. It’s hard to gauge now that I’m on a solid, Earth-ey rock that has mass and gravity, but in a vacuum, massive objects tend to do some really weird things to other objects when they’re in close-ish proximity.

One of your more brilliant humans, Albert Einstein put it best: time and space are relative. They are unified. A massive object with its own gravitational force is going to stretch that space-time fabric.

Why am I telling you this, though? You know this. You probably learned about this in middle school science class. Well, a product of this theory — gravitational waves — was confirmed last week when the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory — “LIGO” for short — observed two black holes closely orbiting each other.

This essentially deconstructs Newton’s theories of gravitation, and supports Einstein’s relativity theory. It doesn’t outright confirm it, but the fact that a prediction made based on that theory has been proven does give it some brownie points.

The Slug Empire has been familiar with those black holes for a very long time. At more than a billion light years away, they stand tantalizingly out of the Empire’s reach.

Not that we’d want to go there, anyway. Black holes are no fun to be around. First of all, they absorb all light that passes near them, meaning we have to observe them indirectly, which of course we’re not doing when we’re on a long trip somewhere. The outer-space equivalent of a trucker isn’t going to notice an invisible black hole when they’re desperately trying to stay awake and alert.

They’ve claimed much of our fleet, rapidly compressing thousands of slugs, weapons and technology into an uncomfortably small space. Don’t get me started on how they play with light, either. The way they leave ghastly images of their victims’ demises long after they’ve consumed them is really, really creepy.

This is an effect that has been posited by humans here on Earth who study black holes, and it was postulated using Einstein’s theory. Crazy things start to happen when those aforementioned victims start approaching the speed of light towards the hole. Since the hole is warping time and space so much, time appears to slow from a bystander’s perspective, which means you’d better not be looking when a close friend is falling in.

Traumatic gravitational experiences aside, though, what does any of this have to do with the news about gravitational waves? How did it prove Einstein’s theory? What are gravitational waves, anyway?

Well, humans have finally witnessed an event that even we alien slugs almost never see: the merging of two black holes. As these black holes orbited each other, they radiated gravitational energy until they finally merged with each other, sending massive ripples into the space-time continuum. These ripples do insane things to time and space around the holes, causing both to compress and stretch and do all sorts of crazy stuff.

How does this affect your everyday life? Not too much. The waves emitted by these black holes aren’t noticeable when we’re so far away from them. In fact, they aren’t that much of a threat to the Empire, either, given that our largest fleet is in the Milky Way, on its way here. Even if the fleet is thousands of light years away from us, it still means they’re over a billion light years away from the orbiting black holes.

This kind of thing is valuable information for the Empire, though. It’s a somewhat recent discovery for us, too. While we know the nature of gravity and space-time first hand (it helps us travel at light-speed) knowing about a dual-black-hole many galaxies away is great. The more we know about a far-away system or galaxy, the easier it will be to conquer.

Or stay away from, as we probably will in this case. We’d rather not move closer to a deadly black hole that’s doing this kind of thing, lest we risk getting spaghettified. Besides, it would take us more than a billion years to travel there. That’s a fifth of the sun’s remaining lifespan, all to take a one way trip to a system getting gravitationally wrecked by not one, but two black holes.

No thank you.


Written by George Hyde