A few weeks after the 100 years of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity, a team of scientists in the United States was able to prove the existence of gravitational waves.

“International teams of researchers announced on Thursday the first direct detection of gravitational waves, a major breakthrough in physics that opens a new window on the universe and its mysteries. […] "This breakthrough marks the birth of an entirely new field of astrophysics, comparable to the moment when Galileo first pointed his telescope towards the sky" in the 17th century, underlined France Cordova, director of the National Science Foundation, which funds the Ligo lab. "


“Ripples in space-time, called gravitational waves, were detected directly for the first time by American astrophysicists at Caltech (California Institute of Technology), MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational -wave Observatory). […] The detection confirms a major prediction of the theory of general relativity stated by Albert Einstein in 1915 and promises to revolutionize the study of our Universe. "


The following exercises will give students a better understanding of what gravitational waves are and how their discovery can influence our understanding of the universe.


At the end of the activities, the student will be able to:

- Understand what gravitational waves are;
- Understand the influence of this discovery on our understanding of the world;
- Get to know scientists who have changed our perception of the world with their theory;
- Use Twitter to see the spread of a scientific phenomenon

Suggested Activities

ACTIVITY 1: Gravitational waves?

Several have attempted to simplify the importance of the discovery of gravitational waves to make the concept clear to everyone, but have they succeeded?

As a group, listen to the following explanations (Charles Tisseyre from the program Découverte, this video from Europe 1, this one from Futura-Sciences) and validate your understanding using the following document:

Download the file in Word format (.docx)
Download the file in PDF format
Download the file in response format (.PDF)

It is also possible to validate your understanding with this humorous chronicle of Fred savard of "The evening is (still) young" of Saturday February 13, 2016.

ACTIVITY 2: The importance of gravitational waves?

For scientists, this is a major discovery, but for non-scientists, how important is this discovery?

Following the reading of This article, ask the students to comment on this discovery.

  • Do they understand the importance of this discovery?
  • Does it change anything in their perception of the universe?

Invite students to browse two Twitter feeds 1TP3 Gravitational probes and #gravitationalwaves to see how this phenomenon is conveyed on social media.

ACTIVITY 3: The great scientists

We constantly hear from some scientists without really knowing what they have accomplished.

The following exercise will allow students to test their knowledge of the great scientists of our history. Students can find leads on this page of Wikipedia.

More about the magazine

Physicists say they have detected Einstein's gravitational waves, February 11, 2016

Space mission: Gravitational waves: Einstein got it right, February 11, 2016

The gravitational wave
Astronomy & Astrophysics

The theory of relativity
Astrosurf - Luxorion

Gravitational waves: the development of physicist Aurélien Barrau
Futura Space

See this

Gravitational waves: one of the "most important discoveries of our time", February 11, 2016

Gravity Visualized (English)