BICEP2 Announces First Direct Evidence of Cosmic Inflation

On March 17, the BICEP2 collaboration announced the first direct evidence of cosmic inflation, the explosive growth during the Universe's earliest moments. They also announced that they have acquired the first direct evidence of primordial gravitational waves, which have been described as "first tremors of the Big Bang." Another important result is that the data confirm a deep connection between quantum mechanics and general relativity. LIGO Scientific Collaboration congratulates BICEP2 colleagues on this groundbreaking result!


LIGO Debuts Two New Information Resources

To the general public, the dense technical nature of much scientific research can make the entire activity sometimes seem inscrutable. Scientists collaborate closely and often communicate in a shared language of acronyms, codes, abbreviations and insider lingo. They diagram strategies on classroom chalkboards and debate vehemently around beige conference tables. Much of their thinking is expressed in the symbolic notations of mathematics. All combined these can prove a high barrier to an understanding by non-professionals. As a result, the work of scientists might go unnoticed for years until such time as some stunning discovery is announced or a revolutionary technology is revealed.

This is unfortunate because the stepping stones on the path to a big discovery can be fascinating themselves. Often these "small victories" provide a better insight into the actual processes of scientific research than do the sudden headlines of a dramatic discovery announced.

The trailblazing work of LIGO comprises hundreds of scientists and dozens of premier institutions all working toward a common goal - the discovery and study of gravitational waves. All involved firmly believe that the Advanced LIGO detectors will capture this prize. But in the build up to that day, vital and significant science is underway around the clock.

To share news of these important advances with interested members of the public, LIGO has developed two new online resources to describe, as non-technically as possible, the progress our team members are making in two pivotal directions: science and technology.

First are the Science Summaries. LIGO now regularly publishes "outreach abstracts" of significant new research publications, which include the data in plots and tables. Currently available are: "A Search for Gravitational Waves from Inspiraling Neutron Stars and Black Holes," "Optical, X-ray, and Radio Telescopes Seek Explosive Sources of Gravitational Waves," and "Listening for Gravitational Waves with 'Ears Wide Open,'" among others.

Second is the LIGO Technology Development and Migration webpage. Here we describe real case histories in which technological innovations powered by LIGO research have traveled on to other areas of science and industry. Find out about the "Fast Chirp Transform," the "Holographic Quantum Geometry" and the "Diode Pumped Laser," among others.

These two new online LIGO resources will be updated regularly as fresh publications become available, so check back often for the latest information.


Groundbreaking Ceremony for Gravitational-Wave Detector Project in Japan

In January the gravitational-wave detector community welcomed the arrival of a new member into its family. The KAGRA project held its groundbreaking ceremony this month in Kamioka, Japan. An acronym derived from KA (KAmioka) and GRA (GRAvitational wave telescope), KAGRA is the new name given to the LCGT detector project of the University of Tokyo's Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, in cooperation with the National Astronomical Observatory and the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization.

The LIGO Scientific Collaboration spokesperson, Gabriela Gonzalez, was on hand at the ceremony, while the LIGO Executive Director, David Reitze, sent a congratulatory video message.

See photos of KAGRA's groundbreaking ceremony in Kamioka, Japan.

LIGO Executive Director David Reitze delivers a congratulatory video message to KAGRA.

Official KAGRA website.


Squeezed Light Experiment a Glowing Success!

Research on the use of "squeezed light" in a complete LIGO detector has been underway on the enhanced LIGO 4km interferometer at Hanford (H1) . Recently, the squeezed light team has successfully demonstrated a nearly 1dB improvement over a broad range of frequencies. Equally important for future applications is the fact that the influence of optical backscatter, which dominates at low frequencies, has been well understood.

The team believes it now knows enough to responsibly design a potential future upgrade to Advanced LIGO which would use squeezing to improve the design's sensitivity. This is a true milestone and a wonderful example of forward-looking R&D that also acts to reduce risk for Advanced LIGO.

A further refinement of the H1 squeezed interferometer is underway: the installation of a low-loss output mode cleaner. Its objective is to achieve a greater reduction in noise and to provide further data on backscatter. This work will be pursued as a target of opportunity in the remaining available time, but the squeezing team can already claim success in its original goals.

The Advanced LIGO team has been working carefully around the H1 interferometer as it installs the new system. With the squeezing goals met, we can plan the decommissioning of H1 in preparation for the Advanced LIGO components. Our schedule calls for this to begin November 30, 2011, or shortly thereafter. That will mark the definitive end of the squeezing R&D on the Hanford 4km interferometer.

- Contributed by Dave Reitze


David Reitze Named New LIGO Executive Director

David Reitze has been named the new LIGO Executive Director, succeeding Jay Marx, who is retiring as Director but will continue to work with LIGO part-time.

Reitze, a professor of physics at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and spokesperson of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration for the past four years, has been involved with LIGO since 1996, most recently leading the input optics design for Advanced LIGO. In addition to his role as LIGO Executive Director, Reitze was named a senior research associate at Caltech.

Read the full Caltech press release here:


Gabriela Gonzalez Elected as New Spokesperson of the LSC

Gabriela Gonzalez has been elected as the new spokesperson of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC). Gonzalez, a professor of physics and astronomy at Louisiana State University, was elected to the position for a two-year term. She is a Fellow of the International Society on General Relativity & Gravitation; the American Physical Society (APS); and the Institute of Physics.

Read the official LSU press release:


Real or Counterfeit - the tale of the Big Dog

For a few months here at LIGO, there has been a lot of hushed but excited talk that a gravitational-wave detection event may have been observed during the Sixth Science Run underway last September. The discussions were discreet, unofficial, and always qualified as "may have been observed." It is the essence of the scientific method not to announce any conclusion until results have been checked, rechecked, and checked again. Nevertheless, the excitement was conspicuous and the code words "big dog" could be heard in every hallway, around every coffee pot. Why "big dog"? The possible event appeared to originate in the area of the Canis Major constellation.

At the same time, LIGO scientists and engineers were always aware that a fake signal - a "blind injection" - might be deliberately added to the data by top management to test the data analysis methods and the personnel monitoring the science run. So the signal might be spurious. Or it might be authentic. All of LIGO was enjoined to act on the assumption that the event was as real as it appeared to be.

After months of preparation, planning, research and due diligence, it was announced that the answer to the Big Dog event - was it real or fake? - would be disclosed at the March LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) in California. The procedure would be this: Jay Marx, LIGO Executive Director, would stand before the hundreds of LSC collaborators gathered in the vast assembly hall of the Embassy Suites Hotel. Video cameras would simultaneously broadcast his actions to LSC outposts around the world via the internet. Marx would exhibit a sealed envelope, open it, and reveal its contents. If the envelope contained a slip of paper, then the Big Dog event was a fake, only a test. But if the envelope were empty, then the event was real and all pandemonium could be expected to break out.

After about two hours into the first day of the LSC meeting, Jay Marx took his position at center stage in front of the assembly. He displayed the envelope. He opened it. A tense hush fell over the crowd. He revealed the answer.

So was the Big Dog an authentic gravitational-wave detection event? Or was it instead a test? (Hint: when the event is real, expect this blog to proclaim it in 10-inch high letters.)

Read more here:

Discover Magazine Online

Discovery News Online


The full story at the official LIGO website, LIGO.ORG