Gravitational Waves: Communicating the Science and Wonder of LIGO

Sunday, February 19, 2017: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Room 203 (Hynes Convention Center)
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) discovery of a gravitational wave signal from the collision of two black holes was announced on February 11, 2016. A dramatic milestone in physics and astronomy, this was also an event that captured the public imagination as few scientific discoveries have. For physics, this discovery validated decades of effort to build sufficiently sensitive detectors and validated predictions from Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity about the existence of gravitational waves and black holes. For astronomy, the discovery marked the opening of a new "window" for observations of the universe. For the public, it was an awe-inspiring glimpse into the vastness and power of nature, as well as a testament to the 1,000 scientists who persevered through decades of focused work. This session will discuss the methods and meaning of the discovery for a nonspecialist audience. Speakers will also focus on LIGO's efforts to use the interest in this discovery to expand public understanding and appreciation of science more broadly. Starting several years before the discovery, curriculum materials were developed to provide information about gravitational wave science to as many students as possible. In parallel, an intensive effort paved the way for sharing news and understanding of the anticipated discovery across a wide array of media. The goals, methods, and successes of these efforts will be described.
Peter Saulson, Syracuse University
Gabriela Gonzålez, Louisiana State University
Stanley Whitcomb, California Institute of Technology
Our New View of the Universe Using Gravitational Waves
Lynn Cominsky, Sonoma State University
Exploring Gravitational Waves in the Classroom
Joey Key, University of Washington
Sharing the Wonder of Gravitational Waves