Science book reviews & recommendations

Mike Hewson
Mike Hewson
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There is a relevant article

There is a relevant article by Duncan Lorimer in Living Reviews In Relativity ( a Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics production ) which seems to summarise much of the book.

Cheers, Mike.

I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal

astro-marwil
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Hallo! RE: I guess if my

Message 92257 in response to message 92256

Hallo!

Quote:
I guess if my memory was the way it used to be I would buy and read the book


Why buying? Why not lending from a public library? Here in Berlin/Germany that works fine.

There is another wellknown book about : A.G. Lyne, F. Graham-Smith ; Pulsar Astronomy, 4th ed. 2012, Cabridge University Press, 978-1-107-01014-7 (ISBN), €139,65
That´s from the people from Jodrell Bank Observatory, who discovered the first pulsar.
I bought one exemplar of the 2nd ed. very cheep from a second hand bookshop.

Kind regards and happy crunching
Martin

Mike Hewson
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LIGO Magazine Issue 6 is out

LIGO Magazine Issue 6 is out ! :-)

I am excited by the news of Hanford's first prolonged lock at the advanced design level. That goody goody data is not so loooong away :

Quote:
It is possible that O1, LIGO’s first advanced era data run, will be underway when you read the next issue of LIGO magazine!


... that's this year folks.

But this has not been without alot of team effort in problem solving. I have to quote this sparkling gem :

Quote:
“Dr. Frolov’s Levels of Awesomeâ€
In order of increasing awesomeness:
5) The change doesn’t work and it makes the interferometer performance worse. Sometimes this level of “success†is accompanied by the phrase “and you broke something.â€
4) The change works, but it makes the interferometer performance worse.
3) The change doesn’t work, and it doesn’t affect the interferometer performance.
2) The change works, but it doesn’t affect the interferometer performance.
1) The change works, and it improves the interferometer performance.


.... evidently you could replace 'interferometer performance' with with equal wisdom. :-)

There is an article about one of Hanford's secondary roles : to attract and collect tumbleweeds that "can explode spectacularly under an excessive and wind-driven Galilean transformation" ! :-)

A great article explaining the control screens, which I will eagerly soak up in prep for some later detector watch type commentary later this year. [ The detector ilogs are publicly available but show no entries since 2011 ]

I especially value the piece ( to be continued ) by a now retired NSF program director - Richard Isaacson - who is outlining the history of LIGO from the funding side. Emphasis is on the value of exploratory R&D, scaling laws, and assessing risk vs reward :

Quote:
Many technologies were being advanced by several orders-of-magnitude simultaneously. This is totally crazy.


There is a description of a tour of the original Hanford 'secret' plutonium production facility which I found interesting and hope one day to make ( see also Made In Hanford ).

The key graphic is on page 19 which shows Livingston sensitivity improvements to present day. It is now capable right down to sub ~ 10^[-23] in the sweet spot. One can't overstate what a tremendous technical achievement this is. :-)

Cheers, Mike.

( edit ) Hmmmmmm ..... it occurs to me that this website is very likely going to be insanely busy in the near term ie. next year or two. I'll have to lose some weight, get fit, bulk up and buy a new pair of running shoes. :-))

( edit ) I've just looked up best inspiral range from prior runs. Typically then about 15 Mpc and now at 60 Mpc but the increase in the spatial volume sample ( how much of the Universe centred on us ) goes like the cube of that improvement ie. (60/15)^3 = 64 times.

I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal

Mike Hewson
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In all the fuss I've missed

In all the fuss I've missed out mentioning Issue Seven and Issue Eight. Of course Eight contains all the skinny of The Discovery, including some personal angles which are quite interesting.

Cheers, Mike.

I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal

Mike Hewson
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Well I have just finished -

Well I have just finished - and am quite blown away by - the book "We Are All Scientific Experts Now" by Harry Collins. You may know Mr Collins as the author of "Gravity's Shadow" ( 2004 ) which is an excellent analysis of ( especially the early ) gravitational wave community. Mr Collins is a sociologist or social scientist if you like.

The reason I am so impressed, and there are certainly many other reasons besides mine, is his clarity in analysing the real behaviours of real people. Some of whom are 'scientists'. And the rest of us who might very much aspire. Indeed he analyses - for his and our purposes - the meaning of different types of expertise. That clicked well for me because I am very used to ( nay tired ) of clever/intelligent people who have no substantial knowledge of the domain upon which they pronounce. And Pronounce they do. With the certainty of a Papal Bull and none of the contextualising that occurs in serious discussion.

Mr Collins neatly encapsulates this with the phrase 'distance lends enchantment' ie. gross simplifications which bestow 'correctness' where none truly exists and more so with removal from the area of interest. He attacks the cherry-picking and willfully ignorant stances of those who have much to say about one portion of some topic, while claiming their expertise is both valid and widely embracing ie. NOT! :-)

It is not that everything is contingent but that many statements - especially the ones of great sociopolitical impact - ought have their surrounding assumption base clearly exposed and explicated. With no with-holding. Naturally that won't happen in any perfect way given the deviousness of self interest that is rife. But at least there is a gold standard, as it were, of clarity to aim for.

He also admits - brilliantly IHMO - that social scientists too are subject to the very human foibles that they examine and test for in others. Which is a key point. Otherwise the social sciences, or at least those that claim to be scientific, will become just/yet another disconnected polemical group generating more heat than light.

He illustrates his analyses with a couple of high profile public scientific topics. His aim is not to resolve any of the debates within. But he skillfully barbs pretty much all comers in their pretentions to special knowledge in those domains.

He also explicates some 'back stories' that I never knew of. Particularly instances where journalists have deliberately created an out of context story for which, had the reader known of the omitted details, a rather different ( typically opposite ) set of conclusions would gave been reached. Personally I would describe this as fraud, in the criminal sense of passing a dud cheque. This is not mere innocent errors or necessary adjustments made during contraction of a topic for general consumption. They deceive in order to sell copy and thus make money by preying on people's fears. A lot of money. A lot of fear. When attacked such journalists wheel out the good old freedom of the press chestnut, 'we did it for you' etc ( which is a great idea if it ever actually happened that way ), but implying this will be lost if they were disallowed their own interpretations of events. It is nothing of the sort. The plea is simple : mark fact as fact and opinion as opinion. Don't parade one as the other. Stop insulting the intelligence of others by pretending otherwise. Some huge media conglomerates would crumble overnite if people just were more reflecting of, rather than more reflexive about, the information they are presented with.

And of course there is much for me to take heed of personally too ! I also could use a tip or two in there as well. :-)

I will think more on this and may come back with further comment.

Cheers, Mike.

I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal

MAGIC Quantum Mechanic
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RE: A (fairly technical)

Message 92261 in response to message 92196

Quote:
A (fairly technical) summary of Quantum Gravity approaches (including String Theory) was released very recently, appropriately titled 'Approaches to Quantum Gravity'. It was edited by Daniele Oriti, a physicist who recently won a 1.5 million euro grant to allow him to set up his own research program in Germany. It includes contributions from many leading physicists in the field and a discussion between them at the end of each part. You can find it at Cambridge Press (I received my copy a few days ago) but beware, it's expensive..

Yes it does make you expect to read about the unknown being revealed in a book when it can cost close to $200 considering all the other ones I have read over the years are closer to only $15

If Michio Kaku ever discovers that, he will really try to add to his bank account from all his future writings.

It can make us try to discover how to read that book without actually having to pay for it

tullio
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I suggest to read the "Seven

I suggest to read the "Seven short physics lessons" by Carlo Rovelli.The English edition (the original is in French) should be available.
Tullio

Poorman
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The English title is: "Seven

Message 92263 in response to message 92262

The English title is: "Seven Brief Lessons on Physics"

Italian: "Sette brevi lezioni di fisica"

German: "Sieben kurze Lektionen über Physik"

Mike Hewson
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Black Hole Blues and Other

Black Hole Blues and Other Songs From Outer Space
by Janna Levin

This was released just last week. I downloaded a digital copy from eBooks for a modest $16.99 AUD. You may know Ms Levin from another cracking book of hers ( which I ought review here too ) called How The Universe Got Its Spots. I would classify Ms Levin ( but she readily defies a category though! ) as a cosmo-topologist. I invented that word. It means someone who studies the overall 'shape' of the universe. Her special interest is whether it is finite or not. But I digress ....

Black Hole Blues and Other Songs From Outer Space is a wonderful narrative upon the course of the development of the LIGO project. Notably she has actually gone to most of the primary actors in this ( obviously if still alive and/or lucid ): Rai Weiss, Kip Thorne, Ron Drever, Joe Weber, Robert Vogt, Stan Whitcomb and others that you have probably never heard of. Basically it is a story of who met whom, who said what, who didn't say what, who placed what bet, and ultimately who didn't get on with whom.

Consider it as a brisk sociological commentary about the pretty rocky start that the interferometer development underwent ie. it very nearly wasn't. Several times. The basic issue is simple, it is/was a high risk/cost but high value enterprise. This rotates around the basic physical problem that gravity is really very weak, and we want to use light ( electromagnetism is a much stronger force ) to measure tiny wiggles. No doubt you have heard all the stuff about 10^[-21] etc. It's true. The sheer ambition of the LIGO project was very nearly it's downfall as a practical scientific endeavour.

Alas for Ron Drever he comes across as a highly gifted man who as an adult was really still functioning as a spoiled child. But for the firm insistence of the NSF regarding project management Ron would have destroyed the enterprise. It seems likely that his shenanigans were simply for the purpose of making sure he would be first in line for The Prize. The Nobel, of course. It seems that is rather a sin in the field ie. putting The Prize first & Science second.

{ FWIW : The Nobel was definitely a big deal in times past. Now I wouldn't give it all that much kudos - in generality. The choices of recipients in recent times have really degraded any legitimacy - as an award for excellence in a field - that it once had. As a fiat currency it has slid terribly in the overall public awareness at least. Probably within the relevant industries it still means something. }

For me it demonstrates another common human pattern. In general terms the more brilliant you are, the less able you are to get on with others. There's a form of intolerance that emerges towards those who are lesser equipped ( this is a literal comment ), and vice versa. You might measure this with IQ*, but that is a pretty trashed measurement scale. Maybe it is better to say that the pack/tribe does not reward variance. It rewards conformity and when that is breached the dislike is mutual. Sometimes you have to be smart enough to look dumb ....

So this brings us to Joe Weber. This book has very much altered my view of him. What a great guy ! How sorely he was treated ! Sure his measurements were wrong etc ...... but what an inordinate flogging** he got. The course of his subsequent career ( after the initial bar studies ) is a record of the professional milieu he was working within and not his personal qualities. Nuff said.

What is also worth nothing is that the focii of current ( hardware ) research persist from the early days. Which is MPG ( Germany ), Caltech and MIT ( USA ), Glasgow University ( Scotland ). I'll punt in here that even back in the 70's the best technical prowess ( lasers, mirrors etc ) was at the MPG***. That is a good point : all the main proponents of LIGO loved to fiddle and loved to engage others likewise. Which is a marvelous thing because that ability to tweak, try, tweak again and try again is another main theme in the interferometers. Its success is as much about the hardware as it is about the accumulated experience and dogged persistence of the humans that deal with it. :-)

Cheers, Mike.

* I have to quote this great piece from Virginia Trimble ( who married Joe Weber ) :

** This reminds me of the joke :

doctor : "You're fat"

patient : "I want a second opinion!"

doctor : "Fair enough. You're ugly as well ... "

*** Then the Max Planck Institute or MPI. Which reminds me of the then humorous observation that I made ( ie. is my face red? ) during the tour of GEO in 2011 : "That's the same laser as LIGO" to which the reply was "Yes it is. We made it." :-)

( edit ) Ooops. Silly lad. I ought praise the work of my compadres at ANU who developed the 'squeezed light' ( I call it 'quadrature trapping' ) laser output that has been so useful in shaving more sensitivity out of the beast.

I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal

tullio
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In 1970, workings as a

Message 92265 in response to message 92264

In 1970, workings as a physics and astronomy editor at Edizioni Scientifiche Mondadori, I translated and published an article by Peter G. Bergmann "Researches in general relativity". Its front page included a photo of Joseph Weber and one of his resonant mass detectors. The caption, written by me and not by prof.Bergmann, said that it had detected gravitational waves, which was not true. We got an angry letter by prof. Antonino Zichichi Later I learned that Edoardo Amaldi was interested in GW research after a visit to Weber, giving start to a series of GW detectors in Italy which led to the Virgo Italian/French interferometer at Cascina, near Pisa. So my guilt was perhaps a "felix culpa".
Tullio

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