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Announcement tomorrow on gravitational waves


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http://www.ligo.org/news/media-advisory.php

 

Nobody quite knows what's up. Not until 10:30 tomorrow morning (ET), anyway.

 

Wheeeee! Should be fun! Ars says they are committed to "...[dotting] every I, and [crossing] every T, get accepted for publication and all of that before announcing anything." So, hopefully it won't be a repeat of big announcements for sulfur-based life or the whole "we found a bunch of positrons in cosmic rays but all we can say is it doesn't rule out dark matter" deal.

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The rumor (http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/02/woohoo-email-stokes-rumor-gravitational-waves-have-been-spotted) is that they saw the merger of two black holes, each with a mass about 30 times that of the sun, and that the colliding black holes emitted about three times the mass of the sun in pure gravitational wave energy (E = mc^2)! If the rumors are true it's a spectacular confirmation of Einstein's prediction of gravitational waves almost exactly 100 years ago.

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The rumor (http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/02/woohoo-email-stokes-rumor-gravitational-waves-have-been-spotted) is that they saw the merger of two black holes, each with a mass about 30 times that of the sun, and that the colliding black holes emitted about three times the mass of the sun in pure gravitational wave energy (E = mc^2)! If the rumors are true it's a spectacular confirmation of Einstein's prediction of gravitational waves almost exactly 100 years ago.

Oh, spectacular. They've been waiting for that to happen for a long, long time...

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Oh, spectacular. They've been waiting for that to happen for a long, long time...

 

The experiment hasn't been going on that long of course. The technology involved is very modern, and it takes a huge amount of computing power to simulate black hole mergers, and to analyse the data. But the basic idea is very old, just very hard to test.

 

The live stream will be available here:

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Getting a signal right after turning the detector on is a bit suspicious, kind of like getting a straight flush in your first-ever hand of five-card stud. Makes me wonder if they're detecting what they think they're detecting.

 

But if it can be confirmed that they're seeing what they think they're seeing, this might well be Nobel-worthy.

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Getting a signal right after turning the detector on is a bit suspicious, kind of like getting a straight flush in your first-ever hand of five-card stud. Makes me wonder if they're detecting what they think they're detecting.

 

But if it can be confirmed that they're seeing what they think they're seeing, this might well be Nobel-worthy.

Both sites caught the signal, for what it's worth.

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Yeah. Two detectors rules out a lot of possible bad signals. They've spent a huge amount of time and energy eliminating other noise, and most of their analysis has been focused on ruling out other possibilities. The initial suspicion was that it was a blind injection test--something added to the data without telling the analysts in order to see how and how well the system works, but that's also been ruled out. The site hosting the paper has sort of gotten hosed and I couldn't listen to all of the webcast, so I'm not sure what the sigma count is, but rumors were it is a lot of sigmas. Maybe someone else caught that?

 

Edit: Physical Review Letters finally loaded for me. Hooray! The abstract is saying 5.1σ, or 1 false event per 203,000 years. Someone else more knowledgeable than I am explains what sigma counts--significance--mean.

Edited by terminalmancer
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I'm related to a gravitational physicist. I can check with him (although he's kind of busy and chances are by the time he gets back there'll be more news online anyhow).

Edited by Pingo
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