Thursday, March 17, 2011

The LIGO-Virgo Meeting on Normal Days

Wow!  I can't believe the attention my last blog post got!  I was meaning to post everyday, but with the reception of the "Big Dog" post, I couldn't think of anything nearly as interesting to follow it immediately.

The rest of the LIGO-Virgo Meeting has been continuing on at its usual frenetic pace.  The meeting starts at 8:30 am and lasts until 6:30 pm (assuming we aren't running late).  Monday evening was the meeting dinner which is always nice to catch up with colleagues you don't get to see often (with more than 800 members of the collaboration spread across the country and around the globe, meetings are sometimes your only time to talk face-to-face).  On Tuesday morning I had the pleasure of organizing a Women's Breakfast for the collaboration and I believe this is the first time something like this was done (it was suggested and sponsored by the LIGO Lab Diversity Committee).  About 40 women from all levels of LIGO (student to professor, engineer to scientist) came and contributed to the discussion.  It was very informal and the conversation was productive!  I believe that this will become a regular event and I would like to move it from a breakfast event for two reasons:  First, we had a limited time to talk before the main meeting started and second, I am not a morning person!  The breakfast started at 7 am (don't you feel bad for me) and I prefer not to acknowledge that anything before that time exists :)

Today is the last day of the meeting proper.  This afternoon and tomorrow is a special EPO (Education and Public Outreach) meeting where all of us who are interested in doing outreach get together and organize our efforts.  There were also 2 days of informal meetings before the LIGO-Virgo Meeting started on Monday.  These meetings are by the individual search groups to discuss their data analysis.  There are 4 main sources of gravitational waves: continuous (long duration), inspiral (binary pairs merging into each other), stochastic (noisy background gravitational waves, perhaps the relics of the Big Bang), and burst (short duration gravitational waves from unanticipated sources or from sources that we aren't sure what to expect).  Each of the groups search the data looking for their special kind of gravitational wave and publish their search methods and results.

In closing, about 340 people attended the LIGO-Virgo Meeting and this was the view from near my seat this morning (my seat and computer is in the middle at the bottom):