Black Hole blues

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Selected as a Book of the Year 2016 in the Sunday Times !

The full inside story of the detection of gravitational waves at LIGO, one of the most ambitious feats in scientific history.

Travel around the world 100 billion times. A strong gravitational wave will briefly change that distance by less than the thickness of a human hair. We have perhaps less than a few tenths of a second to perform this measurement. And we don’t know if this infinitesimal event will come next month, next year or perhaps in thirty years.

In 1916 Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves: miniscule ripples in the very fabric of spacetime generated by unfathomably powerful events. If such vibrations could somehow be recorded, we could observe our universe for the first time through sound: the hissing of the Big Bang, the whale-like tunes of collapsing stars, the low tones of merging galaxies, the drumbeat of two black holes collapsing into one. For decades, astrophysicists have searched for a way of doing so…

In 2016 a team of hundreds of scientists at work on a billion-dollar experiment made history when they announced the first ever detection of a gravitational wave, confirming Einstein’s prediction. This is their story, and the story of the most sensitive scientific instrument ever made: LIGO.

Based on complete access to LIGO and the scientists who created it, Black Hole Blues provides a firsthand account of this astonishing achievement: a compelling, intimate portrait of cutting-edge science at its most awe-inspiring and ambitious.

Auteur(s): Janna Levin, ... Taal: Engels. Pagina's: 256. Uitgave: 2016. Penguin books.


Black Hole blues Recensie door T.J. Knowles
This is an enlightening but unsatisfying history of how LIGO came to be. I have a copy of Rainer Weiss's 1972 proposal for detection schemes for both gravitational waves and electromagnetic waves from the Big Bang.
It is a masterpiece of analysis and I was naturally interested in learning more about him and his collaborators. What you actually get is a gossipy,
disjointed version of events where none of the main characters seem quite real, and where you can't figure out exactly who did what.
Ron Drever comes across as deranged, so why did Rainer and Kip Thorne put up with him?. He must have had talents that they both thought
were essential to the success of the project , but what his specific contributions were are still unclear to me. Also not a single photograph of the main actors and facilities or a schematic of the LIGO or diagram of the mirror suspensions.
This is a book that anyone interested in the LIGO project should read, but be prepared to be frustrated. (Geplaatst op 15-12-2016)
Black Hole blues Recensie door D.P.
"Somewhere in the universe two black holes collide, an event as powerful as any since the origin of the universe, outputting more than a trillion times the power of a billion Suns. That profusion of energy emanates from the coalescing holes in a purely gravitational form, as waves in the shape of space time, as gravitational waves."

An enticing premise, and an appropriate one. Interestingly, this book was written BEFORE the detection of gravitational waves and the first binary black hole system; as such, the epilogue is hair-raising, and just phenomenal. What a build up!

Having said that, for a book documenting the most significant scientific discovery of a generation, it is sorely lacking in the science department. Though I found Lavin's writing lyrical and pleasantly fluid, the book serves more as a series of character studies and a document of the politics behind a young LIGO more than anything else - it's almost journalistic in its nature. On the plus side (or, perhaps not), it is a remarkably accessible read - I personally had been hoping for more technical coverage however and there are many opportunities missed in the realm of satiating scientific curiosity. (After all, when will there be another scientific breakthrough as significant as the detection of gravitational waves?) But, as she concludes: "As much as this book is a chronicle of gravitational waves - a sonic record of the history of the universe, a soundtrack to match the silent movie - it is a tribute to a quixotic, epic, harrowing experimental endeavour, a tribute to a fool's ambition." And indeed it is. The landscape of physics, and science in general, is very exciting right now; when the niche becomes the mainstream, when the public attention is attracted, it's a very joyous time to be a scientist/science-lover indeed. (Geplaatst op 15-12-2016)

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