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Science

Scientists Struggle To Stay Grounded After Possible Gravitational Wave Signal (theguardian.com) 85

schwit1 writes with news that cosmologist Lawrence Krauss has set the scientific community abuzz by confirming a rumor floating around for the past several months that the LIGO experiment may have discovered gravitational waves. The excitement centers on a longstanding experiment known as the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) which uses detectors in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana to look for ripples in the fabric of spacetime. According to the rumors, scientists on the team are in the process of writing up a paper that describes a gravitational wave signal. If such a signal exists and is verified, it would confirm one of the most dramatic predictions of Albert Einstein’s century-old theory of general relativity. Krauss said he was 60% confident that the rumor was true, but said he would have to see the scientists’ data before drawing any conclusions about whether the signal was genuine or not. But many scientists are trying to calm the hype. Krauss admits he hasn't spoken to anyone within the LIGO team. Further, to enhance the integrity of their work, the LIGO team will occasionally "purposefully inject false signals in to their data to test the sensitivity of their analysis techniques and to keep people honest." A LIGO spokesperson said, "We’ll certainly let you know when we have news to share."
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Scientists Struggle To Stay Grounded After Possible Gravitational Wave Signal

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @06:31AM (#51292147)

    I suggest a thick copper cable.

  • Not sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yoda222 ( 943886 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @06:43AM (#51292161)
    Is he confirming that the object of the rumor is true, or is he confirming that a rumor exists?
  • by Kludge ( 13653 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @07:22AM (#51292221)

    Hey, folks, gravity waves were already confirmed, the Nobel prize was already awarded:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
    It is funny how experimental physicists get all excited about things that were confirmed by astronomy a while back.

    • by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @07:29AM (#51292231)

      Hey, folks, gravity waves were already confirmed, the Nobel prize was already awarded:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
      It is funny how experimental physicists get all excited about things that were confirmed by astronomy a while back.

      That's an indirect detection. LIGO does direct detection.

      • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @08:40AM (#51292389)
        It wasn't even an indirect detection, it was a series of observations about physical results that could be explained if the theory for gravity waves holds true. LIGO will actually measure gravity waves.
        • It wasn't even an indirect detection, it was a series of observations about physical results that could be explained if the theory for gravity waves holds true.

          Did you say Theory of Gravity? Curse you, I just kicked my Civilization habit!!! [civanon.org]

      • All modern detections are "indirect".
        Did someone search through the jungles and return with a Polaroid photo of the Higgs boson? No.
        The Higgs boson appeared as a tiny excess of a certain type of distribution of secondary particles from billions of high energy interactions. The boson itself was never seen or measured. It is possible that a different physical phenomenon or error was responsible for that tiny excess.
        Just because you do it in a laboratory does not make it more "direct".

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @08:01AM (#51292301)

      It is funny how experimental physicists get all excited about things that were confirmed by astronomy a while back.

      It's hell of a difference observing something that you can explain with gravitational waves and being able to verify by repetition.

      Think of a magic show. The magician appears to conjure doves out of thin air.
      Now, a scientifically minded person will think that he probably kept it in his sleeve the whole time.
      It's not until you can recreate the process that you will know if the dove was in the sleeve or if the magician picked up the dove with the other hand while you weren't looking.

      Astronomy is great for disproving theories since you can see examples on a large scale. It is also great for figuring out new theories.
      Trying to verify theories with astronomy on the other hand is impractical since we don't have a method to move stars around to see if they are what caused a phenomenon or if it's just a coincidence.

      • It's not until you can recreate the process that you will know if the dove was in the sleeve or if the magician picked up the dove with the other hand while you weren't looking.

        Technically you can't know if that's what the magician did. You can only rule out what he could not have done.

      • by Kludge ( 13653 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @10:38AM (#51292941)

        You obviously are not up to speed on PSR B1913+16.
        The observations of PSR B1913+16 did not just fit models of gravitational waves, PSR B1913+16 was predicted to radiate gravitational waves. Using the configuration of the pulsars, astronomers made predictions decades into the future about how that configuration would change over time due to the radiation of gravitational waves. Short story: they nailed it.
        Your comparing astronomy to a magic show demonstrates your vast ignorance of modern astronomy.

      • Trying to verify theories with astronomy on the other hand is impractical since we don't have a method to move stars around to see if they are what caused a phenomenon or if it's just a coincidence.

        Yet. We can't do this, or blow up stars, or set up colliding black holes *yet.*

    • The measurements are exactly consistent with Einstein and no other theory. But they did not directly see waves in this project. The energy loss loss has to go somewhere with gravity radiation the best candidate.
    • Alas, they didn't get the Nobel prize for discovering gravity waves. But "for the discovery of a new type of pulsar, a discovery that has opened up new possibilities for the study of gravitation". (http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1993/index.html)

      So, I guess you're not exactly right.

  • by DrNico ( 691592 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @07:24AM (#51292223)
    Even if it does turn out to be true, what is Lawrence Krauss doing giving the game away on other scientists discoveries before they are published? This would be one of the discoveries of the decade and he has not done the work and has no right to announce it. Further, it could cause problems if the researchers do have a result and try to publish. High impact journals often have rules about not disclosing results before they appear in print.
    • by tinkerton ( 199273 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @07:47AM (#51292269)

      I agree Krauss's announcement is problematic, but not because of some claim to have been involved in the discovery. With the mediatisation of science you get a lot more noise in the system and science is a lot about minimizing noise, about having statements that are as solid as possible. Science, as the title says, is about being well grounded.
      Journals have other reasons as well for nondisclosure.

    • Does it matter if it's published in a high-impact journal? It sounds like it's the sort of thing that makes journals high-impact.

  • If I were on LIGO, I would be righteously pissed at Krauss. If it's true, it's a total douchebag move to grandstand off somebody else's discovery.

    • Re: Douchebag move (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @07:53AM (#51292279) Homepage Journal

      What great social good is Krauss providing by trying to scoop the investigators? I may not like the journal model, but it's what we have and the announcement is theirs, not his, by social convention. If this were a cure for cancer, he'd have cause (people about to undergo dangerous treatment might avoid it), but confirmation of gravity waves? Everybody loses except Krauss.

    • Krauss has moved from "scientist" to attention seeking "I want some too" media whore. He saw how well Richard Dawkins was personally benefiting from being an atheist "evangelist"; now, he too, is on the same "debate" panels as Dawkins and Sam Harris.

      He promotes his book a "Universe from Nothing" which is a BS title too, because he admits that his "nothing" is a "particle soup", which, to me, sounds like "something".

      I still have respect for Krauss, but this is another strike against him, IMHO.

  • "Scientists Struggle To Stay Grounded After Possible Gravitational Wave Signal"

    Oh you, Slashdot...
  • Of course my first thought was, "Their gravity experiment backfired on them, and now they are floating?".

    Second thought was, "Awesome trick headline there /. Worthy of The Guardian. Nice to see editors here actually contributing something."

    Third thought was, "Oh, of course. They took it verbatim from The Guardian. Should have known."

  • Or rather, no we can't. I'm convinced that gravitational waves exist, but at the same time, I'm convinced we can't currently detect them, or detect them at all.

  • by Daniel Matthews ( 4112743 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @06:47PM (#51296761)
    Why did you waste my time with this possible hint about a maybe with no details from people who do not actually know anything?

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