In this essay, scientific surprises and accidental discoveries pave the way toward one of the most significant advances in space history to date.
Start the discussion off by considering how intangible discoveries inform our understanding of the tangible universe. How can these ideas be made accessible to the average person? Is Twilley successful in her efforts?
Finally - use "Writing Excellent Thesis Statements" to identify and summarize Twilley's thesis.
Write your response in a comment to this page.
Being able to understand the tangible universe through experiments of the intangible is extremely complex and mind blowing. There has never been any research conducted on gravitational waves until Einstein’s prediction of its existence. Einstein changed/doubted himself multiple times to even reverse it again. Einstein’s questioning of the existence of gravitational waves makes sense to why the average person has difficulty accepting its existence because he was one of the greatest and most intelligent scientists. Twilley is trying to address the issue of trying to accept the research on gravity waves. Which most of the entire world cannot understand this tangible issue. Twilley does speak to the audience in ways an individual can better understand. She helps to explain how the intangible discoveries help to pave the way to our knowledge of the universe.
According to the, “Writing Excellent Thesis Statementsâ€, a thesis is an assertion or idea that helps to narrow a topic down and helps to describe what your paper is about or what is important for individuals to know. Twilley expressed her thesis to help describe the discovery and more of an understanding of gravitational waves and how advancement of technology will help to better understand or even reveal our universe. She begins to explain her thesis towards the end of the story after she describes one of the most significant space advancements in history today. She states, “This is a completely new kind of telescope and that means we have an entirely new kind of astronomy to exploreâ€ (page 54).
Not only does Twilly describe the theory of gravitational waves in a way that the average person can understand. They also explain just how difficult and cutting edge the production of the LIGO. It takes a good writer, with a specific audience in mind to be able to explain items at the very edge of what science is working on. A subject that even the brightest minds of humanity are unsure about, is difficult simplify, without being muddled in generalities. Twilly does do a very good job of explaining both the concept, as well as the difficulties encountered along the way without making the reader confused, or in such a way that the real picture is not properly displayed.
The cutting edge of science is always very interesting to me, as Twilly describes the lengths that the scientists had to go through to create LIGO, I can barely comprehend the complexity of the project. Building two identical facilities across the country from each other. Each of them having two tubes so long that they have to adjust for the curvature of the earth to ensure that they are straight. It then takes 40 days to suck the air out to create “one of the purest vacuums ever created on earth.” Each tube also receives a glass sphere, polished to within one hundred millionths of an inch. The cables that suspended these mirrors were inadequate, so were replaced with threads of fused silica glass, which would “shatter at the slightest provocation.” Once the LIGO had been built, they then start removing or protecting against sources of interference outside of the gravitational waves they were looking to measure. Accounting for the earths movement, from waves hitting the shore nearby. “Monitoring for disruptive sounds from passing cars, airplanes, wolves.” While attempting to confirm their first possible gravity waves measured from LIGO, researchers had to rule out a particularly large lightning strike on the other side of the world. Twilly describes all of these things for a very specific reason; to let the difficulty of this project really sink in. This was so much more than an expensive building that had to be built, but truly an engineering and scientific marvel for the advancement of the whole world. It baffles me that while I am sitting and reading this paper, struggling to even get my mind around the basic concept of their project, and facility built to achieve it; there are the people out there who have a complete understanding of that same concept. It is papers like this that remind me just how much more there is to know.
Scott Chaddon Jr
I was getting the same sense of awe when reading over the article. The device is so specific and sensitive and is a continual work in progress in order to better it and make adjustments. I can’t even imagine how they even thought up the design. I can’t help but wonder what kind of thought process leads to “Yeah, this should be able to detect gravitational waves.” They even had to run extensive checks to see if their first actual reading wasn’t something else. The excitement as they crossed each item off of that list must have been intense.
I felt the same. I was amazed at the part about stabilizing the mirrors. “One of ligo’s systems responds to minuscule seismic tremors by activating a damping system that pushes on the mirrors with exactly the right counterforce to keep them steady”. I guess that is nothing new. Like I’ve seen people with cameras that are stabalized gyroscopically. But LIGO needs the mirrors way more stable. Just the movement of atoms will disrupt the laser. If you have to account for the atom’s movement and lightning storms on the other side of the world, then that is a very sensitive device.
Scott Chaddon Jr
The project would cost $272 million, more than any NSF-backed experiment before or since. “That started a huge fight,â€ Weiss said. “The astronomers were dead set against it because they thought it was going to be the biggest waste of money that ever happened.â€ (p.48)
Many of the most important scientific discoveries have been based on information that had little to no physical presence, things that we are unable to observe without special tools. Without these discoveries, we wouldn’t be able to discover much more than what we experience. When finding anything that we could not directly sense, we’d be at a loss. The sciences are full of discoveries that leave laymen scratching their heads asking, “…but how do you know?â€
We make tools to help us explore our reality at deeper levels than we would otherwise be able. With each new discovery, we delve deeper. For every step, we take we need better tools. Scientists need new tools to fit the needs of their experiments. As time goes on, these tools become more expensive and more alien. How are we supposed to know that this tool isn’t a waste?
Back when scientists consisted of primarily the wealthy, they would commission their own tools from craftsmen. Now we have organizations like the NSF providing funding. This means that if a commissioned tool is improper, or the base idea false, then the backing organization suffers due to the wasted resources. This is the main difficulty with pursuing an intangible idea, it’s difficult to convince others that your device will work.
In the case of LIGO, their research was correct, but all of those who studied gravitational waves were met with scepticism every step of the way. The NSF had to take a chance on them, even when Isaacson said that the first model would almost certainly be a failure, that they’d need to build it so that they could refine it.
If the idea of gravitational waves and their detection had been more widely known by the general public, LIGO might have been approved easier. One way to make these concepts more publicly known is by using media to hook peoples attention, and then give an easily understood summary of the research. Twilly was published in a commonly read paper (the New Yorker), starting with an interesting story of Marco Drago’s observation, drawing the reader in and giving us a spark of curiosity.
Twilly’s thesis statement seemed to appear rather late in the article, taking a stance while giving a simple summary of her idea that gravitational waves will let us better see our reality, “surveying space and time like we never have before.â€ (p.54)
I agree with you that it is difficult to pursue discoveries of the intangible because the tools we use to make those discoveries are expensive and are hard to prove they will work but I also believe that these tools are important to invest in because the intangible helps us understand the tangible. There is an economic risk associated with these projects but I think that it is worth it to be able to increase our understanding of the universe.
I also agree with you that Twilley’s thesis statement appeared late in the essay and the first time I read through the essay I had difficulty understanding Twilley’s main thesis.
Scott Chaddon Jr
Yes. It’s totally worth it. It’s just difficult to back these experiments sometimes when we don’t understand them fully. Sadly, this could become more and more of an issue the farther that general knowledge and education get from specialized education.
I thought this was also Twilley’s thesis. It leads with what LIGO is working with (gravitational waves) and ends with what we can do with more research about them
Having scientific ideas, research, and discoveries made available to the general public is a difficult task because doing so requires more than public publishing; it requires the findings to be written in a way that the average person can understand. Nicola Twilley did an amazing job at doing this in the beginning of the essay. Before getting to the present-day discovery of gravitational waves, she clearly walked us through the journey of the wave using terms and events that most have been taught since early childhood, such as the emergence and extinction of the dinosaurs to give a time frame from beginning to end. Naturally, she leads into more modern history as she describes the past of gravitational wave physics all the way up to the construction and success of the LIGO facilities.
What she didn’t really touch upon was what this could mean for the scientific community. Why would we care that someone was able to detect something we can’t even touch? Understanding how the universe works, using tools and instruments, allows for greater advancement in other areas as we use the knowledge of the intangible to advance the tangible. In the case of this gravitational wave, the discovery could lead to knowledge and technology that could allow us to harness or detect substances that we never could before, all because we could soon know how gravity directly interacts with those substances. Imagine what it could mean for technology in areas of long-distance space travel, construction, energy harnessing. We don’t know what it could do, but there is usually a wide range of benefits to researching the intangible.
Twilley stated, “Virtually everything that is known about the universe has come to scientists by way of the electromagnetic spectrum.â€(pg 53) She is saying that nearly everything that we know comes from intangible forces. What do you know? How did we, as a species come to understand it in as we do now? If we didn’t understand the intangible then we would know almost nothing compared to what we do today.
“The observatory is inching toward it’s maximum sensitivity; within two or three years it may well register events on a daily basis, capturing more data in the process.â€(pg 55) This statement brings a very interesting topic to a close and sums up what the article, by and large, is about. While this piece started with the beginning of the gravitational wave, it quickly and intentionally turned it’s focus to LIGO, it’s ability to function, as well as the process of increasing the sensitivity of it’s instruments. It states a very clear message that not only does it function, but how it will be able to do so (upgrading the sensitivity of the equipment) in the future. It is narrow, specific, and puts the rest of the paper in perspective.
If Twilley were to have gone farther into why gravitational waves were important to discover and what the discovery would mean for us as the average person, I think it would have made it more interesting. This would have then led to it being easier to understand for the average person, as well. Understanding what the LIGO does is clear, but beyond that, like what impacts it will have on us when/if the theory is confirmed, would be interesting to know or at least have an idea of.
Yes, it would be interesting to know and read about how gravitational waves affect us on earth. In my opinion, it may just be too complex for the average human to understand.
Kimberly, I agree. She emphasized the importance of the research being conducted, even though the scientific community had doubts, because it could — and did, apparently — open a door to further exploration. But she failed to explain WHY it all really needed to be done and HOW it would impact the future. Maybe there’s a sequel article?
“The LIGO scientists have extracted an astonishing amount from the signal, including the masses of the black holes that produced it, their orbital speed, and the precise moment at which their surfaces touchedâ€ (pg. 53)
I felt that this particular part of the essay really articulated the amount of information that can be discovered through intangible discoveries.
Intangible discoveries inform our understanding of the tangible universe because our universe is built upon intangible things like space, time, gravity, and force. By understanding these intangible ideas, we build our understanding of the basis of our universe which helps us understand the tangible. The LIGO measures intangible frequencies of gravitational waves which share information of astrophysical events that help create discoveries of the tangible universe.
These ideas can be made accessible to the average person through authors like Twilley. The sharing of discoveries can be made possible by authors that can relay scientific information to average people in a language that makes the information understandable. Twilley does this well by explaining complex subjects in a way that is clear and easy to understand.
Twilley was successful at explaining complex scientific processes as well as confusing subjects like gravitational waves. Twilley was less successful with her thesis. Twilley’s thesis was hard to find as her essay was written more like a story.
I think we’re witnessing a trend in this book where the essays are actually interesting and fun to read. In my experience this is not usually the case when an instructor has you read something so it’s a nice change of pace. It does make it difficult to pinpoint the thesis, though. I actually think I missed the mark on that one after reading so many other people’s replies and I think it might have been reading from a different sense of excitement than most of the others. I’ve been following this story and concept for years so I was most excited about going more in depth on the construction and history of LIGO.
I love learning and understanding the intangible because it makes life so much more interesting to know, for example, that we are frequently being stretched and compressed through our daily lives. I hope that you found the article interesting and are enjoying the class.
Using intangible discoveries to understand the tangible universe is incredible an incredibly intricate concept. There were a few specific parts os Twilley’s essay that truly helped me understand exactly what LIGO was doing and the significance of it. First, when she describes how the laser will be designed as an L, (47). Second, how the tubes of the instrument had air pumped for forty days to “create one of the purest vacuums ever created, a trillionth as dense as the atmosphere at sea level,” (49). Third, how she illustrated the mirrors of the instrument as “polished to within a hundred-millionth of an inch of a perfect sphere, dangling from fibers of glass,” (50). All of these excerpts were very good visual examples for me to interpret LIGO’s work. I think Twilley did a very good job of helping me and other average readers a solif understanding.
Twilley’s thesis was not easy for me to find as she seemed to lead her essay with a lengthy introduction of the story of LIGO. I believe I found it closer to the end where she says, “Gravitational waves may not illuminate the so-called dark energy that it thought to make up the majority of the obscurity , but they will enable us to survey space and time as we have never thought before,” (54). This statement encapsulates the main idea of the essay and what LIGO is trying to do.
I also loved her descriptions! At first I was a little worried that they essay would be dry and hard to understand, but Twilley did a great job. I also had a hard time finding her thesis, but settled on the same passage from 54. If a stronger thesis was written at the beginning of the essay, I think that “Gravitational waves may not….” would be a wonderful supporting conclusion. In my opinion, it’s kind of weird to grasp the idea that her thesis was also her conclusion at the same time.
Intangible discoveries are all that we had to start with in order to understand the tangible universe. As technology has advanced, we’ve been better able to see the tangible universe, but this is still where we stand within the discoveries made of the universe. There is much to be discovered still, and the only way to continue these discoveries are by further investing in the materials and instruments needed to do so, like the LIGO. “LIGO is part of a larger effort to explore one of the more elusive implications of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The theory, put simply, states that space and time curve in the presence of mass, and that this curvature produces the effect known as gravity.” (Pg. 45) Einstein himself doubted the way gravity was created at times, as it was all intangible evidence. For these ideas to be made accessible to the average person; its difficult. I, being an average person with an average knowledge about the universe, had a difficult time understanding much of it even with Twilley simplifying it to terms an average person should be able to read and understand. The complexities of the universe and the scientific discoveries made, with much of it being theory and not physical evidence, make it hard for me to support a theory. While this is the way it is with the science of the universe, I still find it hard for the average person to get a good understanding of these ideas. Physical proof and evidence are what confirm my thoughts and beliefs on theories, but in order to get physical proof from the universe, while very important, it can cost $272 million and take 20 years.
Twilley’s thesis seemed to start with, “A hundred years ago, Albert Einstein, one of the more advanced members of the species, predicted the waves’ existence, inspiring decades of speculation and fruitless searching.” (Pg 43) This is more of a broad statement, at which Twilley then narrowed it down and led into the LIGO, and the scientists surrounding the instrument whom believed in the theory and the LIGO’s purpose in finding gravitational waves.
Scott Chaddon Jr
I hadn’t really thought about it before. I agree that all we had to start with was intangibility for our studies. This also got me thinking on how much the human species has relied on intangible explanations to give reason and order to the world, starting with general ideas and superstitions that we started to test and refine down to our current sciences.
It is definitely difficult to try and express complex ideas to the average person. I think we mainly need to know the simplified what, how, and why of the research to at least get a basic understanding of what’s being attempted, though it can’t be too simple or people might freak out. Like the large hadron collider for example. Tell people: “We are making black holes on earth,” all you get are looks of horror until they understand how small and short-lived the singularities are.
You mentioned so much being left to discover in regards to the universe, and the time and money that it requires. One of the sections that really summed up this challenge was when program officer at the National Science Foundation, Rich Isaacson, said,
“It should have never been built. It was a couple of maniacs running around, with no signal ever having been discovered, talking about pushing vacuum technology and laser technology and materials technology and seismic isolation and feedback systems orders of magnitude beyond the current state of the art, using materials that hadn’t been invented yet.”
It makes a little more sense why progress is so difficult when scientists are attempting new discoveries and needing methods and tools not yet imagined.
I agree with the essay being a good attempt at digesting complex scientific studies to the common man, but to me it did fall short. I view myself as pretty common in regard to the topic, and it was still a struggle to grasp the significance of the discovery and its future implications.
Twilly did an excellent job trying to explain how LIGO works and how the scientist who work there prove that gravitational waves affect us on earth and how LIGO uses them. She made it very clear of what they have been doing and how the work was done by LIGO teams and how the team has been able to continue updating the observatory so that they can detect gravitational waves that started 50,000 years ago. This is quite mind-boggling that we have the ability to detect them and it also fascinating that the waves took that long to reach us on earth. LIGO may lead to being able to use gravitational waves to study drak matter is ground breaking.
Twilley did not have a clear thesis in this article because of the length of the introduction of what LIGO is and what it has been doing for the past 22 years. After reading the article a couple of times, I did find a possible thesis for this article. Different celestial sources emit their own sorts of gravitational waves, which means that LIGO and its successors could end up hearing something like a cosmic orchestra (54)
Not only in astrophysics, but in many other areas of science, we are challenged with making the intangible, tangible. For this study, billions of dollars were spent to create tools that would allow the researchers to measure and interpret waves in a controlled and accurate fashion. In a book I read a few years ago called Biopunk, Marcus Wohlsen (2012) discusses “DIY biohackers” and the challenges of building a culture of open-source biology and scientific research. Everyone wants to protect their research. New technologies and drugs must be patented. Economics are a strong barrier to the release of scientific information. Twilley even notes that the researchers were sworn to secrecy as the project was developed (p. 44).
As demonstrated by Twilley’s essay, the best way to make information accessible to regular people is after the fact, written with clear — yet in-depth — descriptions in a relatable context. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to experience this as one of the actual researchers. I love how Twilley mentioned small aspects of their everyday lives. Her writing style, descriptions, and the way she told this story allowed me to wrap my head around the intangible. I think that is one of the biggest challenges in making these ideas accessible to the average individual. The nature of scientific publication can be difficult to understanding if you are not an expert in a specific field.
Twilley’s writing reads more like a story than an essay. I believe that her thesis appeared at the end, rather than the beginning of her work. “Gravitational waves may not illuminate the so-called dark energy that is thought to make up the majority of that obscurity, but they will enable us to survey space and time as we never have beforeâ€ (p. 54). Throughout the essay there were individuals and agencies questioning and doubting the worth and validity of the research. The researchers — and Twilley, in her writing — successfully challenged skeptics to show prove that it is possible to study the intangible, and even if it seems impossible, it is important to try in order for us to better understand the tangible.
I am reminded of the intangible discoveries in our universe every time I head to the South of Alaska for my family’s annual fishing trip in Valdez. I plan our trip around the ocean’s tides that week, and have learned that high-tide fishing provides the greatest chance of success. Thanks to Sir Issac Newton’s discovery of the law of gravity, we understand the effect of the Earth, sun, and moon’s gravitational attraction and its effect on the ocean, and its result of high and low cycling tides. I am thankful for this discovery to be commonly understood and accepted because it has shaped the way I think concerning oceanic sport fishing.
New advances in science are made accessible by any sophistication society allows. Methods used in Sir Isaac’s era of 1687 England are vastly different from the technological capabilities we see in the modern U.S. The main difference between to the two eras are simplicity, speed, and presentation in which information is able to travel. If the great minds of our age, along with universities and scientific communities, would devote effort to relaying discoveries across the internet, social media, and video platforms, the knowledge and accessibility to such information has the potential to be the best it has ever been.
Twilley’s attempt to inform us of a significant discovery, while informative, did lack the ability to grip me and effectively communicate to the average person the impact of such a finding. This observation doesn’t lessen the magnitude of such a discovery, but I think it warrants greater attention to how this information is divulged if it is to be accepted by the common person.
“Virtually everything that is known about the universe has come to scientists by way of the electromagnetic spectrum.” (Twilley 53)
Twilley’s thesis comes later in her essay than would be expected, but given her well prefaced history on the discovery of gravitational waves, it communicates the importance it has in the generational mission to understand our universe.
Twilley, Nicola. “The Billion-Year Wave.” The Best American Science and Nature Writing, edited by Hope Jahren, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2017, 53.
I completely agree with your assessment of her effort to communicate the relevance of the project and it’s implications to the average person. I read and re-read the essay several times trying to wrap my brain around why detecting gravitational waves means anything to me. I find it fascinating and the enormity of the project is mind-blowing, but I think she could’ve spent more time explaining the relevance of it to every day life.
Intangible discoveries help us understand the tangible universe by explaining why something is the way it is. For example, it is easy to observe that someone is sick. They have tangible symptoms like coughing. The cause for their sickness is usually intangible, such as bacteria or a virus.
Understanding the tangible, at least historically, is probably easier than understanding the intangible. You can easily use your senses to observe a tangible object. Multiple people can also easily observe the same object and use the object as a prop to explain their discoveries. Today with the help of technology it is easier to observe intangible objects such as entities in space. I would argue that both are important and help us better understand the universe in general. Understanding something like blackholes and its’ effects on space and time is just as important as understanding something tangible and observable like movement and the passage of time.
Twilley was very successful in making the information about the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory and its’ discovers accessible to the average person. She included background on the two black holes colliding and then the events leading up to the creation of LIGO.
I believe that Twilley’s thesis is “Gravitational waves may not illuminate the so-called dark energy that is thought to make up the majority of that obscurity, but they will enable us to survey space and time as we never have before.” It follows the 5 general rules of Writing Excellent Thesis Statements. Although I think it could be a little more specific. I also dislike how the start of the thesis statement begins with the part about dark energy as it has nothing to do with the rest of the article.
The whole story of the LIGO is amazing. Gravitational wave traveling billions of light years can be detected. I wonder how the scientists knew that the waves they detected was real. Some people doubted their existence so it’s not like they could compare it to anything. Maybe by process of elimination? They eliminated all possible causes, like the lightning storm, that originated on Earth, so it must be something extraterrestrial. The scientists probably have some in-depth reasoning that couldn’t be put in layman’s terms.
Great analogy in your first paragraph. I had a good time thinking of intangible things that we have gradually come to accept are real despite not being able to see them. I agree that both tangible and intangible discoveries are equally important, but sometimes intangible ones may have greater importance. Your idea of her thesis statement made me second guess myself, but maybe she had multiple thesis statements in this essay (is that even allowed?) This story was definitely amazing, it’s mind-blowing thinking of all of the stuff going on in the universe, 95% of it that we can’t even see or know nothing about. It’s even more astounding when something like this happens and brings evidence of these crazy things with them. Great writing! I really enjoyed this essay and assignment.
Our universe consists of intangible discoveries. We are able to understand so many things, such as what we’re made of, what everything is made of, what the universe is made of, and much MUCH more because people had intangible theories. Unfortunately, the individual who usually is the first to theorize might seem off the wall crazy until the slightest bit of evidence, like gravitational waves from black holes orbiting each others, appears. Or like Galileo theorizing that the earth revolves around the sun, and ending up in jail. This intangible discoveries are SO important and it’s amazing that individuals, such as Einstein, could theorize about intangible things like gravity, and end up being right.
Writing about these ideas is a wonderful way to make them accessible to the average person. There are a lot of different platforms that these writings could be displayed on to appeal to different groups of people. Social Media seems to be an effective way to share almost anything, but audiences don’t always care to check sources or make sure the article is valid. Documentaries definitely seem to be thriving today, so that would be another platform to share news like this. Scientific Journals, Newspapers, etc… are great as well.
Twilley does an outstanding job simplifying such an amazing journey in terms and concepts that someone with a very minimal scientific knowledge can understand (I’m referring to myself). I don’t usually give much thought to physics because I have such a hard time understanding it. There are so many intangible factors and complicated theories, I get dizzy when trying to understand it. This essay was great, enticing, and had me all of the sudden interested in black holes. It had me doing research of my own so I could thoroughly understand this and see if there were any new updates. However, despite memorizing the 5 factors of a good thesis statement, I had a hard time figuring out which paragraph was her thesis. Although I’m not sure, I believe that her thesis is the second paragraph. Her assertion seemed to be in the last sentence of the paragraph. It narrowed the topic and was specific enough so I could understand. After reading everyone else’s choice of the thesis statement I did second guess myself, but this was the paragraph that helped me understand what we were talking about most efficiently so it’s the one I’m sticking with.
I also thought it was amazing how accurate Einsteins was hundreds of years ago without the use of technological advancements that we have today. I would love to hear his thoughts on their discovery based off of his initial theory. Imagine what such a great mind could uncover today.
I believe tangible discoveries through research and experiments are imperative to in order to understand the tangible universe; technological advancement has given life to the those tangible discoveries. The description of the LIGO was captivating and depicted the level of difficulty it took get this project underway. Twilly describes her theory in a way that someone without a scientific or technological background can understand.
What I would have liked to have read, is how this discovery is important to me as the average person with a lack of complete understanding and how the findings impact the world (past, present or in the future).
I totally agree. How is this discovery important to the average person? Perhaps it helps them make further discoveries that aid in the life of an average person directly at some point in the distant future? Or perhaps it’s just helpful to understand what is going on with what is being studied around the world at this time, the text did state that another research device was being constructed in Europe. Still, I get what you’re saying, I can’t think of how this might help the average person or should even be relevant.
So my thoughts on the accessibility of groundbreaking ideas are simple. I don’t think the average person cares too much about something that isn’t going to affect their life in anyway. I heard about the detection of gravitational waves in my high school physics class and we talked about it a little bit, but after that class got out, I didn’t give it any thought. Clearly it’s very important in the physics world and for those who enjoy physics will be keen on it. So the average person doesn’t necessarily need to have ready access to groundbreaking, intangible discoveries. Those that care will put in the time to look it up on the internet or have it presented to them in a little blurb on their favorite news network, but the rest of the unconcerned masses will continue on living the same way after they hear about it on the radio while they drive to work.
For those that really do care, who put in the time to be knowledgable, concerned individuals with curiosity about the world or their favorite parts of it, then any of these intangible discoveries of the world will make a great impact on their life and I thinks thanks to the internet, they will have a great deal of access through scientific journals, youtube, online news outlets, etc… that, especially something as impactful as gravitational waves from colliding blackholes, they can readily find new discoveries daily. The biggest problem is probably now that we have ways to gather intangible data, we must begin innovating more and more to turn that data into tangible ways. That is probably the biggest barrier between the well-educated discoverers that makes the discoveries and understand their data and the average people that don’t have a PHD and years of experience.
Looking at Twilley’s effort in meeting the average person, I think just the act of reaching out makes it successful. When the average person isn’t affected by these discoveries and doesn’t care about them, it’s very hard to reach them in the first place. So, the portion of people that will be affected by Twilley’s effort will appreciate it. Reaching anyone will be more of a success than not trying at all.
Without intangible discoveries informing our tangible world it’s easy to believe that humans would still be sacrificing people to the volcano gods and worshipping the sun. A lack of information seems to create a fertile ground for superstition.
While I do think Twilley did a great job of describing the LIGO project and the machine itself and also giving a simplified explanation of gravitational waves and how they were able to be measured, the relevance of it all seemed vague.
“Virtually everything that is known about the universe has come to scientists by way of the electromagnetic spectrum.” (pg 53) After several times reading this essay I finally settled on this sentence being the thesis and think that it sheds some light on the relevance of the LIGO project. Although it still feels too broad and hard to relate to as far as what that means to me in my every day life.
Excellent point. I didn’t even consider the first point you made, that lack of information is fertile ground for superstition. I also agree that Twilley did a great job describing the project and machine but the relevance was very vague. I think that is an excellent point. I think what the idea is, is that though it seems irrelevant the discovery could lead to further discoveries with the intangible universe around us. The relevance to the average person still remains question.
“Four hundred years ago Galileo began exploring the realm of visible light with his telescope. Since then astronomers have pushed their instruments further. They have learned to see in radio waves and microwaves, in infrared and ultra violet, in X-rays and gamma rays, revealing the birth of stars in the Carina Nebula and the eruption of geysers on Saturn’s eighth moon, pinpointing the center of the Milky Way and the locations of Earth-like planets around us. “(bottom of pg.53-54) I think this statement is an excellent example of communicating how we may use our understanding of the tangible universe to make discoveries within the intangible universe.
This essay demonstrated a strong point that we make advancements with our tools used for discovery of the intangible universe through our understanding of the tangible universe. This was described not only in the building of LIGO but the tests researchers used to ensure accuracy of their findings. They shaped their device in a right angle ‘L’ (with idea that one side would become longer and the other shorter as a gravitational wave and created “safeguards”, including suspending bars in a vacuum, creating two systems in two locations, the beam of light as a ruler (with the knowledge that in a vacuum the speed of light is constant). They also had advancements in the placement of the mirrors used to measure their light beams, once using steel loops of wire to a system of pendulums dangles from fibers of fused silica, further insulating them from seismic tremors. They also ensured that no foreign particles entered their room altering their results in any way. They then used several tests, including yelling, using shakers to vibrate things, tapping on things, having magnetic radiation introduced. These things were done with what they understood of the tangible universe to ensure they wouldn’t interfere with what they were trying to find about the intangible universe.
Which leads me to Twilley’s thesis, which I believe was found at the end of the essay on page 54, “. . . 95 percent of the universe remains imperceptible to traditional astronomy. Gravitational waves may not illuminate the so-called dark energy that is thought to make up the majority of that obscurity but they will enable us to survey space and time as we never have before.” In this statement she makes an assertion in which she is specific, narrows down the topic and has described the main idea of the essay.
With her essay she has made the seemingly intangible universe of the scientific community involving astronomy, physics and gravitational waves tangible to the average person. One who is not directly involved in this project has accessibility to the knowledge and facts stated in this essay as any other person with accessibility to “The New Yorker”. I think Twilley was successful in making these ideas accessible to the average person, using popular news media or any popular public media forum can possibly achieve these results. That being said, I feel as if only a certain portion of the population would actively keep up with news of the scientific community and that’s those involved in it and it’s very probable to say that not everyone spends time reading “The New Yorker”. With this essay Twilley has definitely got the ideas out there but depending on your definition of the ‘average person’, that may or may not have been achieved.