Music of the Spheres

Recently we noted a major scientific event: the detection of gravitational waves by the LIGO experiment.

The other day, the physicist and cosmologist Brian Greene visited Stephen Colbert (yes, I’m linking to Stephen Colbert) to give an explanation and demonstration of the experiment. Watch it here.

The big payoff: the actual “sound” of two black holes colliding. Wait for it!

h/t: my boy Nick.

Related content from Sphere


  1. Whitewall says

    That was an odd sound indeed. Almost a double sound with the two tones involved. Also, it was interesting to meet a scientist with a sense of humor. Not the stereotype. Colbert managed pretty well himself.

    Posted February 26, 2016 at 10:11 pm | Permalink
  2. I have met a few scientists in my day, Robert, and virtually all of them have had a sense of humor. Sometimes a bizarre sense, but a sense nevertheless.

    Albert Einstein, whom, regrettably, I never had the honor to meet, is well known for having a terrific sense of humor. My favorite of his witticisms was, “Two things are infinite — the universe and human stupidity. And I’m not sure about the universe.” And I’m not sure he was joking :)

    Posted February 27, 2016 at 1:17 am | Permalink
  3. The universe: Starts with a bang, ends with a whimper.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

    Posted February 27, 2016 at 1:58 am | Permalink
  4. Whitewall says

    Henry, I must have only been exposed to the dull ones. However, one course I took in college- Earth Geology- was taught by a real nut. He was funny acting and looking. Turned out, that was the only science course I took that actually interested me. Even today, I notice features on mountain sides when I drive through that never would have occurred to me before. Same at the coast.

    Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:42 am | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    I was raised by two scientists, my father having grown up in London as an Anglican, and my mother in Scotland, the daughter of a Congregationalist minister.

    When I was born they had me baptized. When my brother came along five years later, though, they didn’t. They told us later that they had decided to keep him as a control.

    Posted February 27, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink
  6. He was funny acting and looking.

    Well, Robert, acting and looking is a whole ‘nother ball of wax (present company excluded, of course).

    Posted February 27, 2016 at 1:38 pm | Permalink
  7. Whitewall says

    “They told us later that they had decided to keep him as a control.” Well, if he has any of his Mother’s Congregationalist leanings, baptism is still an option and will be figured as proper. And with a “control” like that, who says science and religion can’t mix?

    Posted February 27, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink
  8. A couple of other famous examples:

    Niels Bohr:

    A friend was visiting in the home of Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr, the famous atom scientist.

    As they were talking, the friend kept glancing at a horseshoe hanging over the door. Finally, unable to contain his curiosity any longer, he demanded:

    “Niels, it can’t possibly be that you, a brilliant scientist, believe that foolish horseshoe superstition! ? !”

    “Of course not,” replied the scientist. “But I understand it’s lucky whether you believe in it or not.”

    Wolfgang Pauli:

    Rudolf Peierls documents an instance in which “a friend showed Pauli the paper of a young physicist which he suspected was not of great value but on which he wanted Pauli’s views. Pauli remarked sadly, ‘It is not even wrong’.”

    Posted February 27, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Permalink
  9. Whitewall says

    ‘It is not even wrong’.” Wow! Can you imagine the emotional damage that statement can do on any American campus? Every “safe space”, “trigger” tripper known and unknown will be at risk.

    Posted February 27, 2016 at 4:44 pm | Permalink
  10. Malcolm says

    Asimov: The Relativity of Wrong

    Posted February 27, 2016 at 4:50 pm | Permalink
  11. Isaac Asimov, of course, is a much more knowledgeable scientist than his English Lit correspondent, John. What the latter’s criticism of Asimov revealed (so thoroughly by Asimov himself) was John’s complete lack of a sense of nuance, which Asimov identified as the confusion/conflation of the concept of “wrong” with the concept of “incomplete”.

    Even the great General Theory of Relativity (arguably, the greatest single accomplishment of the human intellect in the world of science) is incomplete, or, as John would call it, “wrong”, because its efficacy breaks down (i.e., mathematically diabolical infinities intrude) in the tiny domain of quantum mechanics. This is what string theorists are striving mightily to resolve — a theory that would unify GR and QM, the so-called “theory of everything”.


    Posted February 27, 2016 at 7:49 pm | Permalink
  12. P.S.: Even the theory of everything, if and when it is completed to the level of satisfaction that would be demanded of it by the scientific community at large, will most likely be incomplete, IMHO. Some future John will come along to point out that it does not account for some aspect of nature, and is therefore “wrong”.

    With some people, you know, you just don’t know, you know?

    Posted February 27, 2016 at 8:12 pm | Permalink
  13. Up2L8 says

    Well, I know that I know what I know and I know that I don’t know what I don’t know.

    Posted February 28, 2016 at 1:07 am | Permalink
  14. Rumsfeldian Epistomology:

    “Well, I know that I know what I know and I know that I don’t know what I don’t know.”

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

    Posted February 28, 2016 at 9:49 pm | Permalink
  15. Thanks, HJH. I didn’t know that I didn’t know that. But now I know that I do.

    Posted February 29, 2016 at 1:33 am | Permalink
  16. BTW, I was riffing on Jim Belushi’s line in the movie “About Last Night“, namely:

    “With some women, you know, you just don’t know, you know?”

    Posted February 29, 2016 at 2:39 am | Permalink
  17. Mark says

    Sorry but didn’t this already happen in 2014? Do they count on us having very short memories?

    Posted March 1, 2016 at 6:27 pm | Permalink
  18. No, Mark, they don’t count on us having very short memories (though my own memory is not as good as it used to be).

    The article you link to mentions that some latent evidence of what is thought to have been an effect that could have been caused by gravity waves was imprinted on the cosmic microwave background. That is a beast of an entirely different color than the direct detection of gravity waves emitted at the time that two black holes coalesced and (the waves) reaching our earth and the detectors on it just a short time ago.

    Do you really think that “they” could get away with trying to fool “us” (including all the astrophysicists in the world at large)?

    Posted March 1, 2016 at 7:34 pm | Permalink