Gravitational waves are a consequence of the physics described in Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. Paraphrasing far too simplistically, general relativity suggests that gravity is not a force per se but the distortion of space-time around mass. Furthermore, these distortions propagate through the universe at the speed of light. The gravitational waves detected by the LIGO project were caused by the merger of two black holes more than a billion light years away. In the provided articles there is no evidence that gravitational wave detection has yielded any tangible advances in earth-bound remote sensing or communications technology. The Defense Department, is however, soliciting research into gravitational radiation technology. They would like to see research on communications that do not require sky visibility. What is unclear is if such a thing is feasible given the size, expense, and sensitivity of the LIGO detectors in Louisiana and Washington state.
I’m not sure that Landsat presented many ethical issues. Megan Black’s article was pretty unpersuasive regarding the ethical problems posed by the Landsat program. She claims, without significant evidence, that the Landsat program exacerbated inequality. The problem is that even if that is true, the standard of living across the third world, especially for the very poor, has risen dramatically since the 70s, in part due to cheaper access to fossil fuels. The ecological argument is slightly more persuasive but only to a point. What is the correct amount of resource usage by Earth’s population? It certainly isn’t zero and without providing such a standard it’s hard to make a claim that the economic benefits aren’t worth it. (At least for South America’s poor) The article’s one compelling argument against the Landsat program is that the American taxpayers subsidized Big Oil’s / Big Mining’s businesses. This is a wonderful argument against the use of taxpayer dollars to fund science, but following this argument to its logical conclusion leads us to a world without public universities or any publicly-funded science at all. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether or not that is a good tradeoff. Assuming that it is even possible to use gravitational radiation detection technology to improve earth-bound communications and remote sensing, the ethical questions are roughly the same as any involving military force or government surveillance. As far as civilian use of the technology, that is the purpose of taxpayer-funded science. That said, I’ve seen nothing that suggests this type of communication or remote sensing is feasible in either a military or civilian context.