Skip to main content

LIGO India Project

I had the opportunity to attend a LIGO conference at Pune university in 2018 along with a ThoughtWorks team working on Engineering for Research (E4R - PDF alert)

LIGO or the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory is a super awesome, science fiction like (but really existing & operational) instrument that detects Gravitational waves (GWs, not to be confused with Gravity Waves).  Think of LIGO like a telescope for Gravitational waves, and because GWs are so different than the light waves that optical telescopes can detect, LIGO itself does not even closely resemble a telescope. 

Crash course on Gravitational Waves

The 'empty' space between planets, stars, galaxies or between two atoms that we perceive as void is actually a 3D malleable membrane.  The interaction of this membrane with mass (Higg's particles) causes it to warp, and just like throwing a stone in still water, creates ripples.  Especially, a jiggling heavy mass (black holes or neutron stars) in this membrane causes waves (literally).  These waves travel at the speed of light in all directions and stretch the very fabric of Spacetime, i.e. it changes the dimensions of distance measurement.  LIGO basically detects these waves.

Physicists and engineers employed an ingenious trick to detect the GWs.  As the GWs pass through earth, they cause a subtle (quantum level) change in the dimensions of the Spacetime.  LIGO consists of two long arms (4 km each!) that use interference patterns (hence the 'I' in LIGO) to detect the the stretching and squeezing of the fabric (more details here).

LIGO is like re-inventing the telescope, but for a different kind of medium.  It's like developing a sixth sense, and being able to detect properties of the universe that light cannot.  It's like seeing through walls, all across the universe.

LIGO India official statement
The scientific benefits of LIGO-India are enormous. Adding a new detector to the existing network will increase the expected event rates, and will boost the detection confidence of new sources (by increasing the sensitivity, sky coverage and duty cycle of the network). But the dramatic improvement from LIGO-India would come in the ability of localizing GW sources in the sky. Sky-location of the GW sources is computed by combining data from geographically separated detectors ('aperture synthesis'). Adding a new detector in India, geographically well separated from the existing LIGO-Virgo detector array, will dramatically improve the source-localization accuracies (5 to 10 times), thus enabling us to use GW observations as an excellent astronomical tool.

A LIGO project is proposed in India at a site near Hingoli District in Maharashtra.  Once successful by 2024, it will be the fourth such detector, and will add to the accuracy of measuring events such as black hole or neutron star mergers in early universe. 


Popular posts from this blog

Thoughts on Quantum Weirdness - Part Uno

E instein loathed the very idea of quantum mechanics.  He famously stated ' God does not play dice! ' (More on that a bit later.)   Quantum weirdness spooked; he could not accept its implications since some of them conflicted with his theory of general relativity.  I don't blame him, since more than a century later, the brightest minds are still trying to reconcile relativity and quantum mechanics , despite both being verifiably true! The notion of unifying the two theories is called  ' Theory of Everything ', and the  first person to prove it  will likely get multiple Nobels. What exactly is stopping the aforementioned reconciliation, one may ask.  I would be damned if I knew it; as Richard Feynman quoted:  If you think you understand  quantum mechanics , you don't understand  quantum mechanics - Richard Feynman   So what's the problem?  Well, it's complicated and I will attempt to

My Favorite Sci-Fi Ideas

In the the frenzy of adulthood and people-pleasing, my love for Science fiction was almost lost.  I feel sad to admit that I didn't watch 2001: A Space Odyssey till very late.  Movies that reignited my sci-fi romance include Inception, Interstellar and 2001, while movies like Arrival and Contact fueled the fire that now has me hooked to the sci-fi genre. This Genre, in essence, portrays magic while trying to explain the premise in the most scientific way possible, and in my opinion is an impressive feat to achieve.  Making the movie Interstellar as scientifically accurate as possible was harder than just making a visual masterpiece.  Sci-Fi gives almost a religious feeling to its followers, which is why Elon Musk enjoys such a cult fandom, he's trying to make sci-fi a reality.  When the humans landed men on the moon, it inspired a whole generation to achieve greatness.  It's unfortunate we did not do anything so great since then. Here are my favorite Sci-Fi ide

International Anthem

Humanity is way better off right now than any other point in history.  Human suffering is at its lowest, economic growth is at all time best, technology is growing at the fastest rate ever, medical tech has more than doubled the average human lifespan in under 150 years; so on and so forth. Of course not everything is merry, the Earth as a planet is suffering from our activities, moreover there are still wars, famines, dictators and genocides.  There's still a looming threat of nuclear annihilation and the guardians of The Bombs are crazy egomaniacs. Interestingly, the concept of 'Country' seems to keep people from killing those within it en masse.  The criteria for me loving another person as a fellow 'Countryman' is quite quaint as well; he or she just has to be born in the same enclosed geographical area as me!  I automatically will be somehow related to that person under the flag of my country.  This sometimes results in Nationalism, which has worked