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Day 680: LIGO In Livingston Parish

Not LEGO, LIGO. Wonders never cease in Louisiana. Not only is Livingston Parish home to the national headquarters of the KKK, it also plays host to one of the world’s Laser Interferometry Gravitational Wave Observatories (thanks, Wet Mark!). Livingston, Louisiana is one of 15 global Laser Interferometer sites, one of two in the United States — it operates in unison with a matching observatory in Hanford, WA.

The science behind laser interferometry to measure gravitational waves

… a facility dedicated to the detection of cosmic gravitational waves and the harnessing of these waves for scientific research. It will consist of two widely separated installations within the United States, operated in unison as a single observatory. When it reaches maturity, this observatory will be open for use by the national community and will become part of a planned worldwide network of gravitational-wave observatories.

… At least two detectors located at widely separated sites are essential for the unequivocal detection of gravitational waves. Local phenomena such as micro-earthquakes, acoustic noise, and laser fluctuations can cause a disturbance at one site, simulating a gravitational wave event, but such disturbances are unlikely to happen simultaneously at widely separated sites.

Why Livingston?

After a nationwide open competition, NSF selected sites near Livingston, Louisiana, and at Hanford, Washington, for the LIGO installations. The sites, which are separated by nearly 2,000 miles, are both flat and large enough to accommodate the 4-kilometer interferometer arms. Both are also far enough from urban development to ensure that they are seismically and acoustically quiet, but still within convenient distance of housing for resident and visiting staff. NSF selected the sites after a nationwide open competition, which included a thorough evaluation of 19 proposed LIGO sites in 17 states, the endorsement of that evaluation by a national review panel, and an internal NSF review.

We now have two field trips to plan – one to LITE in Lafayette and another to LIGO in Livingston Parish. Come one, come all, so much science right here in our own state!

And now I completely negate any and all geek cred by stating that I just laughed with at two consecutive scenes of Legally Blonde. The whole bend-and-snap scene was thoroughly annoying, though. I’d go with the Can I Check Out The Wireless On Your Laptop? routine.

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