Monday, November 20, 2023 - 3:30pm
392 Claudia Cohen Hall
The Search for Stillness: The Environment and Laboratory of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)
Gravitational waves—i.e., the stretching and squeezing of spacetime—cause incredibly minute effects here on Earth that can be masked or mimicked by natural and anthropogenic noise. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) uses the most precise and sensitive instruments, interferometers, currently in operation to detect these seemingly elusive signals. In this talk, I will show how the LIGO physicists reconceptualize the laboratory, environment, and the boundaries between them. This is because to know gravitational waves is to have a detailed knowledge of the surrounding natural and built environments that host the twin LIGO facilities in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana. By providing the history of how LIGO physicists investigated candidate host locations based on their conceptualizations of the ideal laboratory, I elucidate the central role of the environment, its history, and its constituents in siting LIGO facilities. I will then shift to providing how physicists have historically mitigated noise and its effects on the instruments by gaining an encyclopedic understanding of the natural and built environments at LIGO’s current locations.