In reading about the recent gravitational wave detection results, I came across a statement that the two merging black holes converted about three solar masses worth of… uh,mass… into gravitational waves at the time of their merger. That’s a colossal amount of energy, equivalent to 15 trillion years of Solar output. This happened about 1.5 billion light years away, and the gravitational waves that reached Earth managed to warp space here by much less than the diameter of a proton. Needless to say I didn’t notice the chirp passing through last September.
What effect would these waves have had if we were closer to the merger? Would space be warped by macroscopic distances? Would molecules or atomic nuclei be disrupted? Or would the effect be more pronounced on large-scale structures held together only by gravity, like a star or planet?