Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Living LIGO 1 Year Anniversary!

Today is the one year anniversary of the Living LIGO blog!  Thank you to everyone who has ever read my blog and followed me on Twitter.  It has been an exciting year and I hope that the next one is even better for you.

I've learned many things through writing this blog.  The first thing I found was my voice.  Originally, I was targeting this blog to middle and high school teachers and students to give them an insight into the science of LIGO and what it is like to be a scientist.  While I think that this blog has served that role to a point, I also found an audience drawn from a great community of science enthusiasts and I've been able to engage them with all of the things that I love about my job.

By far, it is my readers who have made Living LIGO what it is (and I personally think it is great).  A high point for me came back in March when it was revealed that the "Big Dog" blind injection was not a real gravitational wave.  I wanted to share it on my blog since this was a rare peek into how science is done.  One of my readers shared it on his blog (here) which got the attention of a popular "Cosmic Variance" blog (here) and the story was then picked up by places like Discovery News (here) and various other blogs.  The number of readers went from a few a day to over 1000 on that particular day (and many of those reader have now become regulars).  This is something I never expected when I started writing my blog but it is very exciting for me and I hope that it has at least been interesting for you.

I usually like to post a picture with every post, but I didn't have anything particularly relevant to this so I decided to give you a peek into where I create my blog post and most of my other brilliant research - my office.  It's small but it's all mine!  I even have a window (which is great since fluorescent lights give me migraines) and a door:
If you look closely, you can see some of my collection of stuffed vampire/creepy things.
*Thank you again to every reader out there.*  As always, please let me know what kinds of things you would like to know about.  I'll answer almost anything - from science questions to how to become a physicist or whatever!  Ask in the comment section of any blog post or contact me on Twitter as @livingligo.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Night Life at the LIGO-Virgo Collaboration Meeting

I've talked before in this blog about what it is like being at various scientific conferences including the LIGO-Virgo Collaboration (LVC) Meetings.  At the March LVC Meeting, I was able to share the exciting news about the "Big Dog" blind injection (my blog about it | official LIGO release) and discuss the value of blind tests in science.  Last week I was at the September LVC Meeting in Gainesville, FL and, while there was much to talk about, nothing was truly exciting except to those of us in the business.  So, I decided that I would share with you what the night life is like at a meeting like this.

On the evening of Tuesday September 27th, A good friend of mine called me to ask if I had any plans.  Since I didn't I asked what she had in mind and she told me that she and a bunch of other LIGO people were going out to a trivia night.  I had to think about this for a minute since I am very much a homebody and was looking forward to finishing the book I was reading, but then I realized that I tend to have no life at all and should go out.  So, off I went!

We ended up going to The Laboratory which is a science themed pub/cafe.  Below is a picture of me standing in front of The Laboratory:

Me in front of The Laboratory
When I got inside, I saw that the place was definitely "no frills" and a little divey but the atmosphere was still fun and settled in for an evening of showing off my vast intellectual prowess (read: know a few of the answers and hope my other team mates know more than I do).  I grabbed one of the few menus and took pictures for your enjoyment:

Front of menu (FYI: the URL listed on this menu does not work)
Back of menu
All of the food has a science themed title.  I chose the Dr. Hawking chicken sandwich (the item on the left bottom corner on the back of the menu pictured above).  How could I possibly order any other sandwich since I specialize in relativity?  I was so hungry when it arrived that I dove right in and forgot to take a picture for you.  So, here what it looked like when I woke from my hunger craze and took a picture:

What was left of my Dr. Hawking when I remembered to take a picture
As I was eating, more and more people started showing up for the trivia event.  And the place ended up being nearly overrun by all of the usuals and the mass amounts of LIGO people who showed up as well (I didn't actually count, but there wer about 20 of us).  The lights went off, the black lights came on and the trivia started, hosted by none other than Doc (get it?).  We settled into teams of about 6 people and played the night away.  There were 20 questions.  After each question the DJ played a song and that song usually had some kind of hint to it.  Once the song was over, the team had to turn in the answer on a slip of paper and you got a seconds chance (for reduced points) if it was wrong.  I'm not sure exactly where our team finished (not first and not last) but we had a great time.  Below is a picture of the row of us LIGO people who invaded (and we stick together).  And this isn't even everyone since some stragglers ended up sitting at their own table to the right of the picture:

Just some of the LIGO people who showed up for trivia (yes, all the way to the back of the picture)
And what would a science themed cafe be without lab coats?  Here is one of us brilliant specimens modeling one (with a nice glow from the black lights):

A real scientist in a real lab coat at The Laboratory
After trivia fun was over, a few of my friends and I headed back to the hotel since there was another day of the meeting the next day, but I also had to pack since I left the meeting after lunch to head home (which was an adventure in itself since my plane from Atlanta to Baton Rouge was diverted to Jackson, MS just before we started our decent due to a really horrible storm.  As you can tell, after hours of sitting in a closed airport I did indeed make it home.  And I was glad for it since I was away on travel to Long Island, NY for an APS Executive Board Meeting just before this trip.  Remember how I said I was a homebody?  This body was very glad to be home!