Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Totowa's Link to Einstein

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Totowa's Link to Einstein

Article excerpt

There was no quaffing of champagne, no exuberant high-fiving at Reliance Electronics Inc. of Totowa last week when the company learned that it had played a role in a historic discovery affirming part of Albert Einstein's century-old general theory of relativity.

"Most of our products are successful, so there was no surprise," Peter Patel, the company founder and president, said Tuesday. He was one of three executives integrally involved in the custom electronics manufacturer's effort.

Yet there was a clear sense of satisfaction over the fact that an electronic circuit board made by the company, at the request of scientists at Columbia University, had played a part in the groundbreaking detection of gravitational waves that provided the first proof that Einstein's theory was true.

General relativity says that gravity is caused by heavy objects bending space-time. And when massive but compact objects such as black holes or neutron stars collide, their immense gravity causes space-time to stretch or compress.

Scientists say the waves they discovered stemmed from the collision of two black holes a billion light-years away, which sent ripples toward Earth that were picked up by antennas in Washington State and Louisiana. Einstein had predicted a century ago that such waves existed, but there was no direct evidence that they did until the recent discovery.

The circuit board was part of a device that could measure time down to a nanosecond, or billionth of a second, allowing scientists to measure the delay between the time the gravitational waves hit the first antenna and then the other, helping prove that the gravitational waves existed, company officials said. When the announcement was made, confirming that the company's circuit board had succeeded in its mission, "there was definitely a little sense of pride around here," said Dominick Carbone, marketing manager for the company. "This is a testament to our name, being Reliance, in that our [circuit] boards are very reliable."

The company was started by Patel in 1998 and has grown steadily, manufacturing short-run custom-designed electronic circuits and other equipment in batches of up to several hundred pieces that are too small to be worth making overseas. …

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