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Gravitational Wave Discovery: Fraud or Real; Scientists Leave Device Running Unattended as They Head to Hotel!

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We have all heard the news

Gravitational Waves Detected 100 Years After Einstein’s Prediction!

We are told that a pair of black holes spiraled together releasing a final death chirp caught by two distantly placed laser intereferometers- one in Hanford Washington and the other in Livingston Lousiana. Clearly a signal was detected in both instruments, so this may be a powerful scientific discovery (whether verification of Einstein’s General Relativity may take years to sort out).

The reason some people feel it may be a fraud is that a previous detection was faked, purposely:

The LIGO team includes a small group of people whose job is to create blind injections—bogus evidence of a gravitational wave—as a way of keeping the scientists on their toes. Although everyone knew who the four people in that group were, “we didn’t know what, when, or whether,” Gabriela González, the collaboration’s spokeswoman, said. During Initial LIGO’s final run, in 2010, the detectors picked up what appeared to be a strong signal. The scientists analyzed it intensively for six months, concluding that it was a gravitational wave from somewhere in the constellation of Canis Major. Just before they submitted their results for publication, however, they learned that the signal was a fake.

This time through, the blind-injection group swore that they had nothing to do with the signal. Marco Drago thought that their denials might also be part of the test, but Reitze, himself a member of the quartet, had a different concern. “My worry was—and you can file this under the fact that we are just paranoid cautious about making a false claim—could somebody have done this maliciously?” he said. “Could somebody have somehow faked a signal in our detector that we didn’t know about?” Reitze, Weiss, González, and a handful of others considered who, if anyone, was familiar enough with both the apparatus and the algorithms to have spoofed the system and covered his or her tracks. There were only four candidates, and none of them had a plausible motive. “We grilled those guys,” Weiss said. “And no, they didn’t do it.” Ultimately, he said, “We accepted that the most economical explanation was that it really is a black-hole pair.”

In addition  to that, Robert Schofield of the University of Oregon talked about what happened the morning of the detection at the Livingston, Louisiana site in a revealing article on the University of Oregon site (Robert Schofield is a professor at the University of Oregon):

Schofield was at LIGO’s site in Livingston, Louisiana, working with Anamaria Effler, a scientist based there. They’d put in a long day injecting noises from Earth-bound environmental sources to analyze their effects on the sensitive detectors. Rather than shut down the detectors to begin another test, Schofield and Effler chose to leave them operating and get some sleep.

“The signal came in about 45 minutes after Anamaria and I left,” Schofield said. “If I had been in the control room, I wouldn’t have seen it. It lasted one-tenth of a second. Had I been in the control room an alarm would have sounded, and I could have seen it by looking back at the data. But I was at my motel.”

Here is what must be determined post haste to save this observation for whatever scientific value it may contain:

I. It must be determined what data security measures have been established for this experiment and devices and computer systems involved;

II. It must be determined if these security measures were in place at the time the signal was detected;

III. It must be determined if any logs exist for the computers attached to the system in Livingston, Louisiana, or any computers capable of remotely accesing the Livngston, Louisiana system;

IV. ALL SUCH LOGS MUST BE MADE PUBLIC IMMEDIATELY. Else this observation may be discredited.

If the signal appeared during a period of system start-up, these signals may in fact be more common then expected, in which case, more signals should be forthcoming fairly quickly. If the logs are not made publicly available, then the only hope of saving this signal may be the appearance of future signals under the appropriate data security regime with verification of access to the system. From the New Yorker story linked above, it appears the only inviestigation performed on the possibility of malicious signal injection (i.e. faking a signal) was “grilling the those [four] guys”. Since the device was left unattended, could other than the four have accessed it?

THE PRINCIPLE is a movie that looks at fantastic claims in cosmology, and there have been some very interesting finds recently that are changing the face of cosmology- in ways the public is not yet aware of.

For some perspective, consider:

During the Sandy Hook shooting, the Newtown Emergency Response team just happened to be in a neighboring town performing a “mock scenario of an active-shooter in a school“.

During the LondonBombings in 2005, Visor Consulting happened to be in the tubes doing a bombing exercise.



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