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Dr Einstein and Gravity Waves

edited February 2016
Physics is divided between theoreticians and experimentalists. The theoreticians, like Einstein, do the mathematical models. The experimentalists devise and build machines to prove the theory. Usually it takes years, even generations of failure, building the experiments. One of my fun jobs was building detectors for physics experiments. It wasn't my project, but we had a gravity wave detector experiment, and it never worked.

Today, on the 100th anniversary of the publication of Einstein's theory of the nature of fundamental forces including gravity, we are waiting on an announcement from the gravity experiment.

The LIGO - Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory- experiment built two large laser interferometers, widely separated and precisely synchronized in time. One is in Louisiana https://www.google.com/maps/place/19100+Ligo+Rd,+Livingston,+LA+70754/@30.5629972,-90.7763949,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x8626e85d9fe1a8ad:0x8a1cb2f42f51fe96 and one is in Richland, Washington. https://www.google.com/maps/place/LIGO+Hanford+Observatory/@46.4554023,-119.4771091,12z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x54985dc1a03257c3:0x70ac2e7c3e7fc470. They took years to build, a good year to get them tuned and they have been collecting data for months.

In experimental physics, data is collected, sometimes from thousands of sensor channels. Then it is sifted by supercomputers for patterns and to eliminate many false alarms and data glitches. Usually the data is distributed over the Internet between labs and analysis sites. Tim Berners-Lee's open source release of the web browser in 1993 was specifically driven by the need for worldwide scientific collaboration. The project is a collaboration between MIT and Caltech and you can actually download the data yourself over the Internet.

The experiment is searching for a distortion in the space time continuum from large scale events in the universe which pass through the space of our little earth.

The press conference to announce the results of the first run of data analysis goes live this morning at 7:30AM PST (15:30 GMT). You can watch at:



No one knows if they have found gravity waves, or if this is just an update.

LIGO Lab: https://ligo.caltech.edu/
Advanced LIGO: https://www.advancedligo.mit.edu/
LIGO Scientific Collaboration: http://www.ligo.org/
LIGO Partner Experiments and Collaborations: http://www.ligo.org/partners.php

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