This week's biggest physics story, hands down, was the discovery of gravitational waves by the LIGO Collaboration. Yay, LIGO! Here are my humble contributions to the science story of the year, starting last Saturday, when fresh rumors broke out on Twitter:
Rumor Mill Heats Up Again for Discovery of Gravitational Waves. "Hey, remember when we told you about those rumors that physicists may have finally found gravitational waves? It’s been pretty quiet since then, but yesterday fresh rumors surfaced that yes, the discovery is real. And the LIGO collaboration announced this morning that a press conference will be held this Thursday, February 11, at 10:30 AM at the National Press Club in Washington, DC."
We've Found Gravitational Waves. Now What? "David Reitze, executive director of the LIGO Laboratory, took the podium at the National Press Building in Washington, DC, this morning, and said the words we’ve all been waiting on tenterhooks to hear: “We have discovered gravitational waves.” And a packed auditorium in Caltech’s Cahill building in Pasadena—where people had gathered to watch the live feed—erupted into wild applause."
Your Questions About Gravitational Waves, Answered. "Gizmodo readers asked a lot of great questions about yesterday’s big announcement on the discovery of gravitational waves. And Dr. Amber Stuver of the LIGO Livingston Observatory in Louisiana provided some answers."
Here's a sampling of some of the other LIGO-centric links at Gizmodo this week:
Holy Shit! Scientists Have Confirmed the Existence of Gravitational Waves.
Physicists Are Freaking Out About Gravitational Waves and You Should Too.
Science Nerd Twitter Reacts to the Discovery of Gravitational Waves.
Watch Live as Physicists at the Perimeter Institute Discuss Today's Gravitational Wave Announcement.
Yeah, pretty much everyone was talking about LIGO. And that's as it should be, because, wow -- what an incredible achievement! I mean, just look at the beautiful data plot at left. I haven't seen such a perfect fit since the 1992 COBE announcement, which was so good it snagged the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics and inspired this classic xkcd cartoon.
Here's a sampling of news stories, explainers, commentary, and some quirkier fare for good measure:
Merging Black Holes: A Matter of Some Gravity. Two black holes merging can cast off a few percent of their total mass as gravitational waves in just minutes, sending the final object off on a high-speed journey through the universe.
Nicola Twilley had a fantastic behind-the-scenes feature in The New Yorker: Gravitational Waves Exist: The Inside Story of How Scientists Finally Found Them. Related: What happens when LIGO texts you to say it's detected one of Einstein's predicted gravitational waves.
A brief history of gravity, gravitational waves and LIGO. Related: LIGO's success was built on many failures. Also: Sean Carroll (a.k.a. my spouse and love of my life) weighed in twice, once on his blog ("successes like this reveal something profound about the core nature of reality") and again at the Atlantic (Einstein's Radical Idea: All physics is local). Carlo Rovelli reflects on yesterday’s announcement. And from Caltech's John Preskill: LIGO: Playing the long game, and winning big.
Top 5 Targets of a Gravity Wave Observatory.
Henri Poincaré Predicted The Existence Of Gravitational Waves As Early As June 5, 1905.
The discovery of gravitational waves is the perfect opportunity for the Nobel Prize committee to change its rules. Related: Here's an affiliation network for the 963 authors of that gravitational waves paper.
Why Gravitational Physicists Don't Sleep at Night.
Scientists Chirp Excitedly for LIGO, Gravitational Waves and Einstein. Eventually there was a Chirp for LIGO supercut trailer. Related: Gravity Wave Chirp Songs by The Physics Chanteuse (a.k.a. Lynda Williams).
It wasn't all LIGO, all the time. There was plenty of other cool physics fare.
Me at Gizmodo:
Now There's a Better Way to Image Crystals with X-Ray Lasers. "There is now a better way to image the internal structure of biological molecules at the atomic scale, using powerful x-ray lasers. This could eventually lead to important new innovations in clean energy technologies and drug development, among other uses."
Why Dark Chocolate Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hand. "We all know what happens when a chocolate bar sits inside of a backpack on a really hot day: it melts, and even if it resolidifies, it will never quite look the same. But what if you could tailor your chocolate to have a higher melting point? You probably can, just by mastering a few basics of materials science, according to Jennifer Dailey, a graduate student in materials science and engineering at Johns Hopkins University. She recently taught a short course using chocolate to introduce 20 students to the concepts behind how atomic (or molecular) structure determines the properties of a given substance—in this case, Valrhona chocolate."
Watch Stephen Hawking's BBC Lectures on Black Holes with Quirky Chalkboard Illustrations. "Now you can watch as well as listen as world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking expounds upon his latest ideas about the knotty black hole information paradox, playfully illustrated by chalkboard artist Andrew Park."
Artists Turn Sound Into Ceramics with Custom 3D Printer. "Forget the traditional potter’s wheel. The unique textures of these clay sculptures capture the vibrations of actual sound waves, thanks to a novel form of 3D printed 'sonic ceramics.'"
Other Cool Links:
The Problem With Dancing Shapes: In a geometrically designed social club, how do dancing, triangles & hexagons mix?
In honor of Super Bowl Sunday,Wired's Rhett Allain explains the Physics of Throwing a Football, Part I (what angle should you throw a football for maximum range?) and Part II (What is the angle for max range of a football with air resistance?) Related: How to Throw the Perfect Tight Spiral, According to NASA.
Scientists X-Ray Potato Chips In Attempt To Make Them More Delicious.
How Many Push-Ups Would It Take to Power Your Life? "You could reheat your lunch with less than 800 push-ups."
This Is How to Check Whether Spacetime Is Foamy.
The Physics Of The Perfect Chocolate For Valentine's Day.
People as Particles: Using physics to describe social phenomena can work—if it’s the right physics.
Chinese Fusion Test Hits 90 Million Degrees for 102 Seconds.
What is the entropy in entropic gravity?
The scale of the universe is amazing – but more astonishing still is the science that lets us understand it.
‘Chameleon’ camouflages itself with plasmonic skin.
Traffic, flocks of birds, ants, and even sheep can behave like fluids.
Five ways particle accelerators have changed the world (without a Higgs boson in sight).
What's the point of theoretical physics?
Scientists Can Make Aerogel From Waste Paper.
Working in This Dark Matter Lab Must Be Like Starring in a Sci-Fi Film.
What is the secret to being good at maths?
The new math section of the SAT doesn't just test students' knowledge of math.
Damian Brown combines creativity and science as head brewer at the Bronx Brewery.
Musician Plays the Last Playable Stradivarius Guitar in the World, the “Sabionari” Made in 1679.
Scientist Mary Somerville to appear on Scottish £10 note.
Give your wine glass a swirl and afterward you may notice little rivulets of wine along the side of your glass.
The Force Awakens Reimagined As Calvin and Hobbes Will Make Your Heart Melt.