Archive for January 12, 2016

On the Theory of Gravitational Wave Rumour Sources

Posted in Astrohype, The Universe and Stuff, Uncategorized with tags , , on January 12, 2016 by telescoper

There has been a great deal of excitement almost nowhere in the astrophysics community since it was announced recently that rumours of the detection of gravitational waves had yet again begun to circulate, so I thought I would add here a brief discussion of the theoretical background to these phenomena.

The standard theoretical model of such rumours is that they are  produced from time to time during the lifetime of a supermassive science project after periods of relative quiescence. It is thought that they are associated with a perceived lack of publicity which might threaten funding and lead to financial collapse of the project. This stimulates a temporary emission of hype produced by vigorous gossip-mongering which acts to inflate the external profile of the project, resisting external pressures and restoring equilibrium. This general phenomenon is not restricted to gravitational wave detection, but also occurs across many other branches of Big Science, especially cosmology and particle physics.

However, observations of the latest outburst suggest support for a rival theory, in which rumours are produced not by the project itself but by some other body or bodies in orbit around it or even perhaps entirely independent of it. Although there is evidence in favour of this theory, it is relatively new and many questions remain to be answered. In particular it is not known what the effect of rumours produced in this way might be on the long-term evolution of the project or on the source itself.

Lawrence Krauss is 61.




Dover Beach

Posted in Poetry with tags , on January 12, 2016 by telescoper

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

by Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)