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Old 02-11-2016, 12:11 PM   #1
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Gravitational Waves Detected

I received the following email a little over an hour ago. Thought I would share it here in the P&R forum. If you're interested in this topic or science in general, I encourage you to click on the links in the text below.



To the members of the MIT community,

At about 10:30 this morning in Washington, D.C., MIT, Caltech and the National Science Foundation (NSF) will make a historic announcement in physics: the first direct detection of gravitational waves, a disturbance of space-time that Albert Einstein predicted a century ago.

You may want to watch the announcement live now. Following the NSF event, you can watch our on-campus announcement event.

You can read an overview of the discovery here as well as an interview with MIT Professor Emeritus Rainer Weiss PhD '62, instigator and a leader of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) effort.

The beauty and power of basic science
I do not typically write to you to celebrate individual research achievements, no matter how impressive; our community produces important work all the time. But I urge you to reflect on today's announcement because it demonstrates, on a grand scale, why and how human beings pursue deep scientific questions – and why it matters.

Today's news encompasses at least two compelling stories.

First is the one the science tells: that with his theory of general relativity, Einstein correctly predicted the behavior of gravitational waves, space-time ripples that travel to us from places in the universe where gravity is immensely strong. Those rippling messages are imperceptibly faint; until now, they had defied direct observation. Because LIGO succeeded in detecting these faint messages – from two black holes that crashed together to form a still larger one – we have remarkable evidence that the system behaves exactly as Einstein foretold.

With even the most advanced telescopes that rely on light, we could not have seen this spectacular collision, because we expect black holes to emit no light at all. With LIGO's instrumentation, however, we now have the "ears" to hear it. Equipped with this new sense, the LIGO team encountered and recorded a fundamental truth about nature that no one ever has before. And their explorations with this new tool have only just begun. This is why human beings do science!

The second story is of human achievement. It begins with Einstein: an expansive human consciousness that could form a concept so far beyond the experimental capabilities of his day that inventing the tools to prove its validity took a hundred years.

That story extends to the scientific creativity and perseverance of Rai Weiss and his collaborators. Working for decades at the edge of what was technologically possible, against the odds Rai led a global collaboration to turn a brilliant thought experiment into a triumph of scientific discovery.

Important characters in that narrative include the dozens of outside scientists and NSF administrators who, also over decades, systematically assessed the merits of this ambitious project and determined the grand investment was worth it. The most recent chapter recounts the scrupulous care the LIGO team took in presenting these findings to the physics community. Through the sacred step-by-step process of careful analysis and peer-reviewed publication, they brought us the confidence to share this news – and they opened a frontier of exploration.

At a place like MIT, where so many are engaged in solving real-world problems, we sometimes justify our nation's investment in basic science by its practical byproducts. In this case, that appears nearly irrelevant. Yet immediately useful "results" are here, too: LIGO has been a strenuous training ground for thousands of undergraduates and hundreds of PhDs – two of them now members of our faculty.

What's more, the LIGO team's technological inventiveness and creative appropriation of tools from other fields produced instrumentation of unprecedented precision. As we know so well at MIT, human beings cannot resist the lure of a new tool. LIGO technology will surely be adapted and developed, "paying off" in ways no one can yet predict. It will be fun to see where this goes.

* * *

The discovery we celebrate today embodies the paradox of fundamental science: that it is painstaking, rigorous and slow – and electrifying, revolutionary and catalytic. Without basic science, our best guess never gets any better, and "innovation" is tinkering around the edges. With the advance of basic science, society advances, too.

I am proud and grateful to belong to a community so well equipped to appreciate the beauty and meaning of this achievement – and primed to unlock its opportunities.

In wonder and admiration,

L. Rafael Reif
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Old 02-11-2016, 12:13 PM   #2
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To call it a huge advance in science is an understatement. Looking forward to reading more details.
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Old 02-11-2016, 12:24 PM   #3
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I follow astrophysics and quantum physics advancements pretty closely and was looking forward to this one for some time.

It is a huge confirmation of relativity, and has a bit of a special meaning for me because my grandfather had worked as a consultant on building a gravitational wave detector back in the 80's, but the project fell through. (He also was a consultant for the likewise defunded Superconducting Supercollider, sadly).

I am also very happy to know that there are others on this board that share my enthusiasm for advances in modern technology and science, for which we are truly living in a golden age that most people are probably oblivious to, unfortunately.

I mean...just in the last 20 years or so we have found thousands (potentially) of extrasolar planets, discovered the Higgs Boson, gravitational waves, and are in the planning stages of a mission to Europa, which is probably the most likely solar body to contain life outside of the earth.

Exciting times for sure!
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Old 02-12-2016, 08:24 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Baron Samedi View Post
I follow astrophysics and quantum physics advancements pretty closely and was looking forward to this one for some time.

It is a huge confirmation of relativity, and has a bit of a special meaning for me because my grandfather had worked as a consultant on building a gravitational wave detector back in the 80's, but the project fell through. (He also was a consultant for the likewise defunded Superconducting Supercollider, sadly).

I am also very happy to know that there are others on this board that share my enthusiasm for advances in modern technology and science, for which we are truly living in a golden age that most people are probably oblivious to, unfortunately.

I mean...just in the last 20 years or so we have found thousands (potentially) of extrasolar planets, discovered the Higgs Boson, gravitational waves, and are in the planning stages of a mission to Europa, which is probably the most likely solar body to contain life outside of the earth.

Exciting times for sure!
Pretty cool to have that kind of science/engineering heritage, Baron. I too look forward to a rich future of scientific discovery.
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Old 02-12-2016, 08:42 AM   #5
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Pretty cool to have that kind of science/engineering heritage, Baron. I too look forward to a rich future of scientific discovery.
My grandfather was an amazing person. His engineering skills resulted in his serving in all 4 branches of the military during WW2. Remember that back then, college education wasn't the norm for young recruits, so those that were very talented AND college educated were in short supply.

So....my grandfather, found himself being bounced around all over the place, wherever the military needed engineering expertise...so in the end, he had to swear in to every service.

He also worked on "Project Y-12", of the Manhattan Project.
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Who is this self-important instigating douche-bag, anyway?
Dude, Baron has been a valued member of this forum for quite some time.
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Old 02-12-2016, 09:07 AM   #6
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Pretty fast reaction by xkcd.

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Old 02-12-2016, 07:27 PM   #7
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...(He also was a consultant for the likewise defunded Superconducting Supercollider, sadly).
I was shocked that this was defunded in midstream and utterly disappointed. Off the top of my head I don't know the exact comparison number's between the Super super and the LHC at Cern but it would have dwarfed it. The God particle would have knelt before it. A huge setback in the advancement of human knowlege. Whether you believe it was a stupid decision or unavoidable due to cost it will always be wrong in my mind.

Oh, and Baron, that's impressive and now we know where the brains come from.

Cheers, BostonTim
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Old 02-14-2016, 01:45 PM   #8
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I was shocked that this was defunded in midstream and utterly disappointed. Off the top of my head I don't know the exact comparison number's between the Super super and the LHC at Cern but it would have dwarfed it. The God particle would have knelt before it. A huge setback in the advancement of human knowlege. Whether you believe it was a stupid decision or unavoidable due to cost it will always be wrong in my mind. Oh, and Baron, that's impressive and now we know where the brains come from. Cheers, BostonTim
IIRC, the issue was fire ants.

They are common in that part of Texas, and they don't respond well to electrical fields.

Basically, they would continuously swarm, be pissed off, and there was concern they would chew on the wiring in the area.
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Old 02-14-2016, 03:53 PM   #9
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I was shocked that this was defunded in midstream and utterly disappointed. Off the top of my head I don't know the exact comparison number's between the Super super and the LHC at Cern but it would have dwarfed it. The God particle would have knelt before it. A huge setback in the advancement of human knowlege. Whether you believe it was a stupid decision or unavoidable due to cost it will always be wrong in my mind.

Oh, and Baron, that's impressive and now we know where the brains come from.

Cheers, BostonTim
I appreciate that. My grandfather was a true genius...don't know his exact IQ but it was over 140.

Mine's not quite that high.

Little anecdotal story. He taught me to play chess at 7 years old. He would handicap himself by starting with some pieces missing, but as I got better he would start playing with more pieces.

I was forced, literally forced, to play at least once a day, and the man NEVER let me win! He said he would make me play every day until I beat him.

I finally did it at 16 years old. Man, what a great day that was. 9 years...my entire childhood, of trying to achieve the impossible. But...the point is, when I DID beat him, I knew it was legit. I knew, without question, that I hard earned it and done it fair and square.

EDIT: (Incidentally, they signed me up for chess club in 7th grade. I was in it for 2 years...7th and 8th grade. I never lost, not even 1 game....all the while with grampa whooping my ass at home every evening.)

Can you imagine what people would say about forcing your kid to do that and never let them win, nowadays?

I never did like chess that much in the first place, and still don't. It is just a dull game, in my opinion. I like calculating odds, and that sort of thing, risk vs reward.

On a brighter note, I used to play pinochle into the late hours with the adults, even on school nights. Our version was "double deck cutthroat pinochle"....it was a rather ruthless version, and very complex..you held 19 cards in your hand to play. I was very, very good. I was generally better than the adults, so they actually enjoyed playing with me, because I was legit competition...even at 10 years old. Playing games was our family time, I guess.

Then I grew up, and got into Magic:The Gathering for awhile. I was pretty good at that, too...beat some of the pros, got ranked up to 12th in the world. You know who ALWAYS beat me, though? The ones that consistently wiped the floor with me, even though I was beating pros? It was the damn 10 year old kids! I learned then that young minds can creatively grasp new strategies and concepts much quicker than old minds. I would pick up on the latest tricks pretty well, but by then, the kids were already on to devising countermeasures for the latest meta strategy.

God....we underestimate kids soooooo much in today's world. We coddle them and shelter them. I think that as a society we vastly underestimate and waste young minds by not challenging them enough, young minds need exercise like young muscles do.

Oh, and incidentally....I had several adults really flip out when I beat them (because, like in professional chess, the higher rank you are, the harder your rating takes a beating when you lose to someone lower ranked). But the kids....the kids when they got beat never freaked out, they immediately set their minds to why they lost and what they can do to counter my type of strategy. They didn't take it personally or anything. It was normal for them.

Anyway, sorry for the off topic rambling. It just set in motion thoughts I had that I wanted to get down while they were fresh. Kids don't need to be sheltered and coddled, they need to be challenged to even realize their own potential. That's what I believe.
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Who is this self-important instigating douche-bag, anyway?
Dude, Baron has been a valued member of this forum for quite some time.
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Old 02-14-2016, 09:52 PM   #10
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Anyway, sorry for the off topic rambling. It just set in motion thoughts I had that I wanted to get down while they were fresh. Kids don't need to be sheltered and coddled, they need to be challenged to even realize their own potential. That's what I believe.
No need to apologize. I found that interesting.

I don't know much of anything about gravitational waves yet, but I do feel that you are absolutely correct about kids and how their brains develop.

Being challenged such as the example you mentioned of your Grandpa kicking your ass at chess until you finally beat him is a great way to learn and I share your concerns about modern methods in making sure that children are insulated from many of the factors which have helped some of the greatest minds in human history realize their potential. Or at least more than they may have otherwise reached.

When I see a nation treating it's kids like they are hothouse flowers in danger of irreversible psychological damage every time they don't "win" at everything I shake my head. That strikes me as a fine formula for cultivating mediocrity. As a best-case scenario.
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Old 02-11-2016, 12:27 PM   #11
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Pretty cool.
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Old 02-11-2016, 12:30 PM   #12
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Every time I read one of these pronouncements I keep coming back to the same thing.

Einstein was one smart son of a bitch.
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Old 02-11-2016, 12:32 PM   #13
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Nicely done

~Dee~
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Old 02-11-2016, 12:47 PM   #14
TipRoast
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Just finished watching the on-campus announcement event.

An interesting analogy that was made was that gravitational waves add a sound component to astrophysics, and up until now that field has been dominated by optical observations.

To extend the analogy, the LIGO instrument is currently capable of detecting loud "explosions" - future instruments may be able to detect quieter and more complex "sounds".

The symphony of the universe, if there is one, may someday soon be within our grasp.
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Old 02-11-2016, 01:08 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Darth Despot View Post
Every time I read one of these pronouncements I keep coming back to the same thing.

Einstein was one smart son of a bitch.
He wasn't anywhere near the brightest in his field, actually. He wasn't too good at math for a person in physics, for example.

What he had was the ability to think creatively and apply logic to his thoughts to arrive at conclusions that were rational, even when 97% of physicists in his day ridiculed him because his conclusions ran counter to popular beliefs in his field. He couldn't even get published.

Some things never change.
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Originally Posted by benhamean View Post
Who is this self-important instigating douche-bag, anyway?
Dude, Baron has been a valued member of this forum for quite some time.
Peace, Prosperity, Liberty, Human Rights, Natural Rights, Civil Rights, Property Rights, Sound Money, Free Markets, Sovereignty, the Constitution, the Republic.

Shameless plug for my blog; https://puntyventures.com/
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