This week,
on Thursday, I shattered Swedish social conventions and started a conversation
with a total stranger on a bus. Hence the title? Perhaps, but other waves were
the focus of my attention and the attempted bus conversation.

My area of science
is focused on the intricacies of small molecules in living cells, however, I sometimes
look up to the “Big Science” going on around. And with my renewed interest in
SF, I find myself drawn to important events especially in astronomy. Last week there
was an announcement that some commentators (scientists not journalists!) have
said is as big as the discovery of the Higgs Boson or DNA. The last statement
shows it was a physicist rather than a biochemist speaking. Watson and Crick
only discovered the structure of DNA, not its existence.

My newsfeed
had alerted me to the fact that something big about the possible detection of
gravitational waves was going to come on Thursday. But my story begins on the
commuter bus on Wednesday.

When I get
on the bus I usually have to stand. At the next stop most of the passengers
disgorge and I go and find a seat for the rest of the journey. On Wednesday I sat
behind somebody who is working hard on his laptop. Due to the positioning of
the seats I was perched above him and could clearly see the screen. In contrast
the usual Excel spread sheet or Word document that my fellow passengers wrestle
with on the way to work, this was a Powerpoint presentation relating to aspects
of astronomy. It looked really interesting—but of course, you would never break
out of your own little world and cross the gulf greater than intergalactic
space to another human being. So I didn’t.

Thursday was
a repeat of the previous day. And again I found myself behind the astronomer.
This time on the screen were slides relating to gravitational waves and I
remembered the announcement that should come on this day. Something in my gut
was telling me to use this announcement to open a conversation. Nonetheless,
the journey was half completed before I launched forth in Swedish, excusing
myself. He wasn’t comfortable in Swedish and we switched to English, which
suited me fine.

I found
myself in an enthusiastic conversation about the significance of the waves (the
final proof of one of the predictions of Einstein’s Theory of General
Relativity) and the likely possibility that the announcement would be
significant. My astronomer was working on gamma radiation from black holes and
black holes—or the collision thereof—were the likely source of the gravitational
waves. So a better person to talk to about this, I could not find. And he had
insider hints that this really was going to be the big one and not the damp
squib that happened last year with the gravitational waves and Big Bang (see

on Thursday two momentous events occurred. The final observation of
gravitational waves, sealing General Relativity and a conversation between two
strangers on a Swedish bus.

I have long been mulling on a story tentatively titled “The Beginning of
Everything” and now perhaps there is a validated method to take the steps back
to the Big Bang via gravitational waves. This was a promise that had been made
and broken in the previous year A story that metaphorically and literally had
turned to dust when the observations were discovered to be an artifact of
galactic dust and not gravitational waves from the Big Bang.