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The wave that made history snuck up on them.A gravitational wave – predicted to exist a century ago by Albert Einstein – had been glimpsed directly for the first time by a pair of U.S.-based detectors.Such waves are a measure of strain in space, an effect of the motion of large masses that stretches the fabric of space-time – a way of viewing space and time as a single, interweaved continuum.The "chirp," as Shoemaker described the long-awaited wave, had arrived while he was asleep.Shoemaker, a leading scientist in the search for gravitational waves since the early 1980s, did not leap out his chair or shout expletives.Shoemaker and colleagues are using different equipment to hunt for much smaller, shorter waves, on the order of milliseconds or seconds. In other words, the kinds of gravitational waves that happen all the time, but had never before been observed.
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