Saturday, July 23, 2016

GR21 @ Columbia + Workshop @ Caltech

In academia, summer is the period to attend conferences and workshops, since the term is over (typically between May and June, depending on the country) and researchers do not have teaching duties at this time. 

This year I attended the GR21 Conference at Columbia University in NYC, the biggest event (organized every 3 years) that brings together scientists working in all aspects of General Relativity. 

I was not super happy with attending this conference, since the conference fee (~$600) and the cost of staying in NYC were much higher than usual (GR20 was held in Warsaw and conference fee was about half the price). However, in this very special and exciting year for General Relativity, I couldn't miss this conference. Attending it, in fact, turned out to be a very good choice: the conference was great, I had the chance to discuss with a lot of colleagues and I've particularly enjoyed the talks at the parallel sessions. I gave two talks, one presenting the recent work discussed here at the Special Gravitational Wave Session, and another on tidal deformations at the Parallel Session on Perturbation Theory in General Relativity. 

The slides of my talks are available here and here, respectively, whereas some nice pics from the event can be found here; I'm not in any of them, though, so I took this one myself:

Heading to the morning plenary session (hence the sleepy face) at Columbia campus
The GR conferences are organized by The International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation, ISGRG. During the GR21 conference, Prof. Eric Poisson was elected new President of ISGRG and the venue for GR22 in 2019 was decided (it's going to be in Valencia).

After the conference, I went to Boston for a short visit and then flew to LA to attend the workshop "Unifying Tests of General Relativity", organized by Leo Stein and other members of the Caltech in Pasadena, CA.

After a conference like GR21 (where one passes most of the time scattering off the 600+ participants, chatting and discussing projects for which one usually doesn't even have the time to sit down and think about) attending a small workshop (~40 participants, most of which friends and long-standing colleagues) like the one at Caltech was really a relief. I've never been on the West Coast and Pasadena is a lovely town, everyone seems relaxed and I had time to sit down and talk to collaborators I usually see in person just a few times per year. Science-wise, the workshop was excellent in many aspects, and I left Caltech really excited and looking forwards to working again on some new projects (if any, this is probably the best outcome of a successful workshop!) Some pictures of the event can be found here and below:

Group photo next to the Keck Center at Caltech

Me discussing with Nico Yunes and Vitor Cardoso about our recent work on GW ringdown

I managed to break my glasses on the very first day of the workshop. The secretary was a a DIY-type lady and helped me fixing them. 
This was the result.... [pic taken by Thomas Sotiriou]

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Richard Brito's got a PhD!

Richard Brito (IST, Lisbon) successfully defended his PhD thesis, entitled "Fundamental fields around compact objects: Massive spin-2 fields, Superradiant instabilities and Stars with dark matter cores" with Vitor Cardoso and myself as supervisor and co-supervisor, respectively.

Richard was awarded a PhD with Distinction and Honours (the jury members were Eugeny Babichev, Carlos Herdeiro, José Lemos and José Natário) and is now moving to the Albert Einstein Institute in Potsdam as a postdoctoral fellow. Kudos Richard!

Richard Brito right after his PhD thesis defense, with supervisor Vitor Cardoso and jury members (from the left: Carlos Herdeiro, Eugeny Babichev, Vitor, Richard, Jose' Lemos, Jose' Natario)

Friday, July 15, 2016

First results from Sardinia Radio Telescope

Are you going to visit Sardinia this summer?
If you arrive at the Airport of Cagliari from NE, probably you will see a strange 64-meter diameter white instrument
in the middle of (almost) nothing.

What it is that?  Keep calm: aliens are not arrived yet. Your holidays are probably save. 
This is the Sardinia Radio Telescope,
a major radio astronomical facility almost ready for outstanding scientific observations. 
Its science goals spread from Radio Astronomy, Geodynamical studies and Space science.

You do not trust me?
Here the  first scientific result from observations  with this extraordinary facility, published on
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: 

They observed a supermassive black hole 
moving at high velocity to a nearby galaxy cluster  3C129.
Here also a brief description of the obtained results from Matteo Murgia (in italian). 

Waiting for other exciting news from the SRT team! 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Second detection of gravitational waves from a binary coalescence

Breaking news are all around the globe after yesterday's press conference by the LIGO/Virgo collaboration, which announced a second very solid gravitational-wave event on Boxing Day, Dec 26 2015, dubbed GW151226.

The waveforms of the 3 events detected by LIGO during O1 (the first observation run). GW150914 and GW151226 are events which are very solidly detected (at more than 5 sigma), whereas LVT151012 has a (small) probability of being a statistical fluctuation. From this page. The inspiral phase of the new event GW151226 lasted much longer than the original GW150914 (about 80 cycles in total)

I warmly suggest you to check this beautiful multimedia page, made by Marc Favata and his group.

As the LIGO/Virgo collaboration put it, the era of gravitational-wave astrophysics is officially started!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Angela Merkel visits ESA

More pics here
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has visited the European Space Agency (ESA) today, in order to promote Germany's participation in ESA's projects.

Friday, May 6, 2016

One cannot get rich with fundamental physics, they said...

..unless you make a landmark discovery such as the first detection of gravitational waves. In such case, you might win a $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics!

The three funding fathers of LIGO, Ronald P. Drever and Kip. S. Thorne and Rainer Weiss, are going to share $1 million, and the other other $2 million will be split among 1,012 scientists who authored the milestone article in Physical Review Letters and a list of key contributors to the theoretical and experimental understanding of gravitational waves (Luc Blanchet, Thibault Damour, Lawrence Kidder, Frans Pretorius,
Mark Scheel, Saul A. Teukolsky, Rochus E. Vogt) without which LIGO outstanding discovery would not have been possible.

As Richard Feynman brilliantly put it:

This also applies to the economical reward that might following great discoveries, and it is probably the reason why reckless and economically inconvenient science is pursed: because it is passion driven rather than money driven.

Kudos to the LIGO/Virgo Collaboration!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

College is not a commodity. Stop treating it like one.

"Unlike a car, college requires the “buyer” to do most of the work to obtain its value. The value of a degree depends more on the student’s input than on the college’s curriculum."

Just came across this excellent article by Hunter Rawlings on the Washington Post, Can't agree more.