Monthly Archives: February 2016

Gravitational Waves Discovered

In case you missed it: LIGO announced the detection of Gravitational Waves

For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented window onto the cosmos.

Gravitational waves were detected by the two LIGO detectors in Hanford, Washington and Livingston, Louisiana, United States, at 5:51 am EDT (0951 UTC). The waves were generated during the final moments of the merger of 2 black holes resulting in a single, massive, rotating black hole. Even though such a merger was predicted to happen, it was never observed before.

The merger of the two black holes happened more than 1 billion light-years away. (definition of a light-year, use this calculator to convert light-years to miles.)

Why is this discovery so important? Gravitational waves tell us a lot about their cataclysmic origins. They offer a unique way to look deep into the past and observe cosmic events that happened a very long time ago. Gravitational waves provide information about the nature of gravity that we wouldn’t be able to get any other way. With this observation, LIGO opens a new window through which we can study the cosmos.

A lot more at LIGO’s Detection Portal.

Getting lost in NASA – The Curiosity Rover has a Chemcam Blog

The NASA website is an amazingly deep rabbit hole. It is it’s own internet. Really, between Wikipedia and NASA, I can and often do go days without seeing the rest of the interwebs. Here’s just one tiny corner of just one of many sections of the site: The Curiosity Rover Chemcam Blog 

Never heard of the Chemcam? Basically it is a camera/laser combo that takes high resolution images and vaporizes rocks with a laser and analyzes the resulting light to determine the chemical make-up of the rock. More via the Wikipedia page for Chemcam:

Chemistry and Camera complex (ChemCam) is a suite of remote sensing instruments on Mars for the Curiosity rover. As the name implies, ChemCam is actually two different instruments combined as one: a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) and a Remote Micro Imager (RMI) telescope. The purpose of the LIBS instrument is to provide elemental compositions of rock and soil, while the RMI will give ChemCam scientists high-resolution images of the sampling areas of the rocks and soil that LIBS targets. The LIBS instrument can target a rock or soil sample from up to 7 m (23 ft) away, vaporizing a small amount of it with about 50 to 75 5-nanosecond pulses from a 1067 nm infrared laser and then observing the spectrum of the light emitted by the vaporized rock.

The Chemcam is just one of many instruments carried by the Curiosity Rover.

An erratic blogger

Jeesh. What a mess this blog is. Fits and starts. Been a long time since I achieved any kind of consistency. I don’t see myself going back to Facebook anytime soon and I don’t seem to have the hang of Twitter. I mean, I understand the basics of it but it just does not seem to be something I connect with.  I suspect that if I’m going to have much interactivity with this interwebs thing it will be here. I’m not sure why I have difficulty with updates. Something about the workflow? Perhaps a lack of desire to communicate via this particular medium? A lack of interaction? I’m thinking it’s that last bit. This isn’t a warm and cozy place. There’s no sense of community or connection. Some blogs achieve that this one hasn’t. I’m not sure I’m someone that writes just to write. I think my impulse is to share but that implies a two way connection – a back and forth.

Pondering. Like much of my life these days, a question and not much clarity.