IndyCar to Adopt Some of LIGO's Noise Reduction and Data Analysis Techniques
As IndyCar teams were preparing for the upcoming 2016 season, Target Chip Ganassi Racing team's simulation engineer Chris Abele happened to come across LIGO's detection papers. As a former satellite engineer, Chris has often found it fascinating to read papers detailing latest in scientific research. But this time, it gave him ideas beyond casual interest.
In a news article by the series sponsor Verizon, Chris wouldn't give out too may details but did say that the team was "able to adapt some of the noise reduction and data analysis techniques that [LIGO] implemented to get some interesting stuff out of our race data." LIGO's Janeen Romie, Detector Engineering Lead at LIGO Livingston, says, "I think I know what they [Target Chip Ganassi racing] are doing, and it's so cool!" As Janeen explains in the article, "We analyze the waveforms that come in against our model simulations, comparing it against what we think it’s supposed to look like. [...] One of the things that I think that he [Abele] has figured out is that you can implement band pass or band reject filters to remove anomalous effects." Janeen points out that a street course like the one in Detroit visited by IndyCar in June, is made up of roads with bumps, twists, bends and other features, which could be thought of as "noise." The goal is to filter out this noise related to external, localized factors, and leave only information relevant to the car's performance. "The engineer can then just think about optimizing how fast the driver can go while still maintaining the downforce for his suspension to handle that corner. It’s such a beautiful thing," says Janeen. The article also points out that, just like car racing, LIGO operates in an environment with only a minute margin of error. Janeen points out some of LIGO's techniques that would be right in place during a car race, such as various checklists for mechanical and optical assemblies, meticulous documenting and reviews of system configurations, detailed procedures, training scenarios to new team members and extensive reviews of personnel actions compared to operating procedures. It's this attention to detail that makes both a championship car race and a ground-breaking scientific endeavor a success.
Above: Jeff Sinden, driver and co-owner of the modified Dallara IZOD IndyCar Series two-seat race car, takes a military member on a ride during the Indy 500 Centennial Tour's stop in Bahrain. The 10-day goodwill tour bring the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 to servicemembers deployed in Europe and the Middle East. Credit: Wikimedia Commons