What would happen if a strong gravitational wave passed through a human body or any other kind of material?

The shape of the human body would change?

Would the human body be distorted apart?

If so, would the person survive?

  • $\begingroup$ The closest thing to your question would be if tidal forces ripped apart someone's body (i.e. by a black hole). $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 1:13

1 Answer 1


It depends what you mean by "very strong".

The announced first detection (14th September 2015) was considered a very strong signal and that still only stretched the 4 km detector arms by less than the width of a proton (a tiny particle inside the nucleus of an atom). This wave would have no effect on a person.

You could hypothesis a stronger wave that would stretch and squish a person, I'm not sure what effect this would have but there are no objects in nature capable of producing waves this strong, even something as close as our sun becoming a supernova wouldn't be that strong, so it will never happen in real life.

  • $\begingroup$ I would think (but I'm not smart enough to do the math) that if you had a situation where the gravitational wave could be felt, then the tidal forces would uncomfortably large as well, but perhaps that would depend on the size of the black holes. $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    Commented Feb 15, 2016 at 23:06

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