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Gravitational Waves in Birmingham

In February 2016 the LIGO Scientific Collaboration announced the first detection of gravitational waves. The importance of the revelation was apparent with the news appearing on the front pages of newspapers across the globe, being broadcast on all major news channels, and the continuing conversations taking place on social media.

Screenshot of the Stretch and Squash app,
													showing the LIGO observatory in Livingston.

The discovery was made by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration, a group of more than 1,000 scientists from 15 countries, and utilising data from two Advanced LIGO detectors, located in the USA.

The extensive news coverage of the first detection significantly increased the visibility of gravitational-wave science, leading to many extra public talks and outreach events in the past months. We are happy and also proud that the publication of our first two mobile apps, Pocket Black Hole and Stretch and Squash was just in time for all the excitement. Our apps can be used as visually attractive elements in a variety of public engagement activities. In particular, the gravitational-wave group in Birmingham has experience in using apps for scientific outreach. The photo below shows a snapshot from the annual meeting of the University of Birmingham, UK, which featured a short presentation and an exhibition about the gravitational-wave detection, including the Stretch and Squash app.

Gravitational waves at the annual meeting of the University of Birmingham, UK

The gravitational-wave group in Birmingham has been involved with the Advanced LIGO project that constructed the current LIGO detectors from the beginning. For over ten years students and staff in Birmingham have built sensors and actuators that are now part of LIGO, supported the operation of the machines, and now provide key input to the analysis of the data and the understanding of the signal. Last but not least they are a very active contributor to science outreach and public engagement.

Andreas