Monday, November 21, 2016

Louisiana: Livingston: Gravitational Gossip

If you're a science nerd (redundant?), the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in Livingston, Louisiana, is a must-see.

Yeah, I know, right? What the hell is that? And where the hell is Livingston, Louisiana?

I had no idea about either LIGO or Livingston until I happened to see a seductive bit of science gossip on a newsfeed on my phone. Apparently, there were whispers about a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT forthcoming from the scientific community about GRAVITATIONAL WAVES FROM SPACE. A mention of LIGO and Louisiana.

Salacious headlines such as: 

Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, 1958. Source: Haphazard Stuff Blog.

This demanded personal investigation! And I only had until the end of February to check it out before I left Louisiana for good!

Maybe the coolest thing there

LIGO has a visitor's center that had interesting stuff in it, but because I'm a superficial geek girl, I don't remember any of that.

Here's what I remember best: Having lived in South Louisiana for awhile, the center of gravity for joyous dance, I was most particularly attracted to these items below, in LIGO's master command center! And in such a large quantity!

LIGO, Livingston, Louisiana. January 2016.


This kind of mundanity (like the avocado green phones at the Very Large Array here and here) just cheer the hell out of me. Kind of like reading a trashy celebrity magazine with pictures under the title, Celebrities Are Just Like Us! showing us how celebrities buy groceries! walk the dog! drink coffee!

Gravitational wave physicists wear squishy, fluorescent green ear protectors!

Here is a picture of an actual scientist who is listening for gravitational waves:

LIGO, Livingston, Louisiana. January 2016.

He was surrounded by RSPs, Really Smart People, who asked serious scientific questions. I, on the other hand, while somewhat smart, left the serious scientific questions to others, and instead, probed for confirmation of the astounding rumors.

The scientist skillfully squirmed his way out of such questions, and I was left unsatisfied.

But maybe there was evidence here?

LIGO, Livingston, Louisiana. January 2016.

LIGO, Livingston, Louisiana. January 2016.

LIGO, Livingston, Louisiana. January 2016.

LIGO, Livingston, Louisiana. January 2016.

No, I found none. But I cannot speak the language of this people.

But ho, ho, ho, ho! Physicists and their sense of humor: 

LIGO, Livingston, Louisiana. January 2016.

You know how when you are in a tour group and there's always That Person who asks all the questions related to obscure bits of minutiae that NOBODY cares about but that person? Well, sometimes I am that person, but on this tour, someone else took on that role! So I could fly under the radar, and under the cover of that person's really smart questions, I could ask deceivingly simple questions like: Tell us about those rumors. We PROMISE not to tell anyone when we leave here.

Alas, to no avail.

LIGO, Livingston, Louisiana. January 2016.

But the man above choked with emotion at the possibility of the rumors being true. Gravitational waves. From space. In my lifetime.

So were the rumors true? 

Gravitational Waves Detected 100 Years After Einstein's Prediction, news release from LIGO Caltech

Gravitational Waves Exist: The Inside Story of How Scientists Finally Found Them, The New Yorker, February 2016

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