Explaining LIGO: detecting colliding black holes and gravitational waves

As most of you have probably heard by now, two astonishing discoveries have recently been made (or rather one discovery leading to another discovery) by the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) facilities in Livingston, Louisiana and Hanford, Washington.

The first and most anticipated discovery was the first ever detection of gravitational waves, a phenomenon that was theorized by Albert Einstein over a century ago as part of his theory of relativity. It may also be interesting to note that this is the only theory of Einstein that, up until now, has never been confirmed. But what exactly are these gravitational waves?

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