Thursday, May 19, 2011


Spent the day as a chaperone on my daughter's AP chemistry class' field trip to the LIGO facility. The facility's mission is to detect gravity waves.  It's a pair of 4km long tubes at right angles with mirrors and laser beams.  You can't see the actual equipment from the outside (just the tubes - below,) but there are lots of cameras and tons of scientific instruments feeding to a control room. They were actually reconfiguring a 2km tube to it's full 4km length, so nothing was operational at the moment.

Although not up and running, the facility has a great hands-on area, where every imaginable demonstration involving waves or gravity was waiting for the many students that cycle through. We had fun with the 30 foot slinky, pendulums galore, interferometers, sound generators, lasers, etc.

This was a special mirror that is being upgraded. It may not look like much, but apparently was the very best available and ran about $150k when originally made.  The coating on these was an amazing iridescent thing.

Another view of removed/demo equipment:

I have no idea how this fits into the grander scheme, but I believe a portion of the money for the real project was siphoned off to build this dalek prototype. My camera angle does not do it justice.

To finish off our tour, we heard a presentation from an MIT physics grad student there who was working on physically implementing a "squeezer" which reduces quantum uncertainty noise.  This is a huge project with collaborators in many parts of the world. Quite impressive, both the young lady and the project.

No comments:

Post a Comment