Waves of Gravity?

The Berlin-based artist Britta Teckentrup has a new picture book, The Odd One Out, presenting the challenge to identify animals that in some way differ from the rest. They have the look of silk-screen prints, with colour overlays to create a sense of texture. On most pages, she sets pictures of seemingly identical animals in a tight-knit repeating pattern. In these dense, sometimes overlapping designs, it’s hard to find the odd one out.

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Many of us have trouble understanding the recent announcement about gravitational waves from the Big Bang. The orange and yellow picture was one attempt to show their form. A trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, the universe expanded faster than the speed of light. This set off tiny ripples in the violently expanding field of energy and these eventually grew into the large-scale structures of the universe. As with Teckentrup’s animals it’s hard to find clues from the image.

But obscure patterns like these are common. Another is in the ripples on a sandy beach that are left behind at low tide.

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Then again, ocean waves show their patterns in many different ways. Piles of water accumulate briefly on the surface, or show up by refracting light onto the sea floor.

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Although these kinds of waves are well-understood they are difficult to describe in words. In 2005 Marinela Reka did well with:

Waves are the children
Of a large blue sea
The toys of the waves are
Kids like you and me.