The calm after the storm


So with the LVC done, and me back in Richland with half of a weekend left, I needed to chill. I think I spent the whole day in my PJs. I woke, wandered about the apartment, I think I even napped in the middle of the day. T invited me out on a hike, but I was in no state for that. All of the other fellows, excluding Hang and Stefan, were elsewhere, but they both went to the site that day.  T did come over in the afternoon with a sack full of laundry (her hotel charged for the use of the washers there, and I only wanted some sweets as a trade)


Monday came too soon, and it was back to work. Over the week at the LVC, the detector hadn’t been locked with a decent inspiral range, which meant that I wasn’t able to check to see if the change we made to reduce the comb had any effect. That would have to wait. So instead, the task I had was to start hunting for a different comb. There are a whole suite of combs, some were worse than others. I had some code that Vinny threw together which would help. The first task was to generalise it, and use it to try to narrow down the source of any of these combs.

In the afternoon, I had a run in with Ross. Ross is the Ph.D student of Ed. Ed, in turn is the leader of the group in Sheffield. Ed and Ross both are at LHO for a period, and while Ed is leaving soon, Ross is staying here for 4 months, and the postdoc in their group, Tega, will be joining Ross soon too. Ross did his undergrad at Glasgow, and knows a few of the people in the Glasgow group, so aside from anything else, I think it would be nice to have somebody to talk about home with.

At lunch, Nutsinee wanted everyone to try her Thai snacks that she bought in Thai town, LA. Over the course of this lunch, Terra learned that I had never once tried a Pad Thai (sp?), and demanded, DEMANDED, that we go out for Thai one day this week, whilst she’s in Washington. Jameeson, T and Nutsinee all talked about the different Thai places in town that are, were, or might be in the future. One thing that I took away from the conversation was that The Emerald of Siam was a place that I would like to go.

So of course, that night, I got an invite to the Thai place. I turned up with Evan and Miriam, and ended up as the 9th in the party. It looked like Terra was able to whip up a party to come out. As promised, I had Pad Thai (kinda sweet, a little too sticky for me), but there was good conversation going on, from tattoos, like Nutsinee’s waveform, or Jamie’s hydrogen atom, we talked a little about politics, (we were all pretty unanimous on that one), and whatever else came up.

It was a fun night, and by the end of it, I was shattered. So after getting home, it as straight to the bedroom.




On Tuesday morning, I get into the office early (thanks, CBC telecons) to see an email from Jess, in the Detchar group. She outlines some work to do for transient noise studies from trucks going along te nearby roads. She said that it shouldn’t take more than half a day, so I put it into my to do list.

Now that I got Vinny’s code a little bit more streamlined (there was still a ways to go, my python isn’t so good) I could at least start using it for comb searches. Unfortunately, just by the nature of the exercise, it takes a while. So I set the code running, in a couple of instances, and went about doing something else.

At mid day, Masayuki, who had been visiting for a while presented a journal club of “The state of KAGRA”, much like the talk at the LVC, but with about 20 of us in the control room, it felt a lot more informal, and differently enlightening. We could really go over all of the details of the interferometer, the suspensions, and the plans for the future.

There was another clue to the combs that led down something of a rabbit hole, from looking for calibration lines and known instrumental lines nearby to trying to reproduce waveforms.  I got lost in that hole. Throughout the afternoon, Miriam continued to explore some of the rooms in LHO that she hadn’t seen before, and we discovered Jenne and Terra making an apple pie in the kitchen. It smelled really good.

I got lost in that hole, and before I knew it, Evan was heading home. I made a super fast dinner of eggs and ham and bread before Nutsinee swung by. She was heading out to Mckays to meet with T, and maybe Jamie. On Tuesdays, they have a local beer night, where beer from the local brewery is $1 cheaper, and gets you enterred into a raffle. We stayed there for two drinks, while T ate some yummy looking food. While I was there, I asked the manager about the open pub quiz position. “You don’t need to try out, just show up with some questions, and we’ll go from there”. I start quizzing on April 6th.

When I got home, I sent out a few emails, to Hang, Darkhan, Evan, Miriam and Nutsinee, inviting them for mouse guard tomorrow evening, They had all made a character with me. All that remained was for me to draw up a skeleton of a mission. It’s the kind of game where it’s definitely ok to flesh it out as you go along.

And then to bed



There still hasn’t been a good lock on the interferometer to test my stuff. The  commissioning team are all trying to bring the machine up to a higher laser power, but in the doing, the machine got moody and is having a hard time locking. It doesn’t help that it’s been windy here, and there’s a whole bunch of other commissioning work going on a host of different things. I know I’m not the only one waiting for a lock.

After reviewing yesterday’s code output, making some minor adjustments and testing them, and setting some more python jobs off, it was time to get started on Jess’ task. She had sent along some plots with truck loud times, and wanted me to look into the spectra of various seismic channels as well as the interferometer output, to see if there’s any coupling that needs taking care of.

In the after noon, I joined T in the EY EBAY. She needed a card to get in, but was only a visitor here, so I went with her. She was just testing some filter she had applied to tackle parametric instabilities. While I was there, I had a snoop around to see if there was anything operating on about a 1Hz period. Nope, nothing. After about an hour, it was time to head back to base camp.

I finally got round to pulling some ideas together, and jotted down a mouse guard mission in bullet points for the next evening. Stefan had left the apartment that morning, so it was a little less busy at home. I don’t remember what I did, but I don’t think it was very much at all.


By Thursday lunchtime, my python script was doing what I wanted it to, but coming up blank on all counts. I got in touch with Robert, to see what he could suggest. I mentioned all of the little clues that I though there were, like the distinctive 0.25Hz “offset” on one of the combs, and whatnot. He got back to me with a few suggestions, look for lines in the interesting band, and to go look in all of the EBAYs, look for blinky lights with the right period, and wave a magnetometer in their general direction. So after a brief search for lines (nope, none evidently interesting ones anyhow), I headed into the CS EBAY for half an hour to have a nose around. Nope. Nothing that was blinky on the order of one second.

Back in my cubicle at the end of the day, Vinny stopped by, laptop in hand. He had told me that he would be in this week to wrap things up with Mike, and to move his stuff out of the apartment. Thursday was later than he had expected to come in, but I knew that he had had a tumultuous week. I told him to get in touch if he’s coming back this way before the summer. I was going to miss his company. With that, he was gone.

That evening, the plan was to head home, set everything up, and once people arrived, order pizza (there always has to be an incentive!) before starting the game. I wanted to start at 7, but at the last minute, Darkhan needed to go shopping so I had to delay until 8. In truth, we didn’t start until 8.15 – and these sessions unually take a few hours.

We played through until past 11pm – it was my first time GMing this system, and everyone else’s first time playing. It was kind of draining. There were moments when I lost a tight grasp of what was going on, and the patrol got themselves into mischief that cost about 20 minutes, all for silly fun. It ate into the time at the end of the session. But by the end, we were all very tired. Next time, I’m insisting that we start earlier.

(NB, if you wanna  hear more about the mouse guard campaign, let me know. I have thought about writing them up, but only if there’s an audience. I’m struggling to find the time to write these as it is.)



On Friday, T was going to join me at the end stations. But first, I had to gather some things. In the event that I did find a blinky light, I wanted to be ready with a magnetometer. The only catch was that I couldn’t find a preamp. Fil said that he had seen a few in the LVEA. The only catch was that the interferometer was locked for the first time in a while. Kiwamu said it was ok to go out onto the floor, but I had to tread softly to not break the lock. It was my first time on the floor alone, and I just took my time to explore a little, and look all over for the preamps. After 20 minutes or so, I was convinced that I had looked everywhere, without crossing over the beam tube. I wasn’t prepared to do that, though, because I didn’t want to break lock.

I returned to Fil, who pointed to a different box that could do the same thing, so I grabbed that instead. With that, T and I jumped into the car and made the rounds to the end stations. The only blinking light that we found of the right period was synced to the GPS clock, so it wasn’t a good candidate. Even then, because it was outside of the EBAY, we couldn’t wave a magnetometer at it. So this was a bust. The rest of the day was more comb hunting at the computer.

At about 6.30, Jenne came by and whipped up Hang and I for a social dinner. It was a nice day, so I jumped at the chance, and into Jenne’s convertible. Roof down, hair up, and we were on the road!  We were heading to Ethos, an Italian place in a part of town I haven’t spent much time in. I was excited!


Though we were the first to leave, Travis, Betsy and Jamie were already there. Jenne, on autopilot, accidentally went the long way around. The restaurant was quite nice, clean design, small plates, modern italian food, and good cocktails. After some time, we were joined by Nutsinee, Hang, Evan, Ed and Ross. The food was pretty decent (but pricey). After a few hours, we moved on. Not home, but to a bar. We started at Gaslight, in Downtown. It was lively. The music was loud, and there was a dance floor. But after one drink, we left, in search of somewhere a bit more sociable.

We headed next to Two Bits and a Bite.When we walked in the door, the music playing was heavy metal – err, no thanks. Betsy jumped straight onto the Jukebox and queued up something a bit more reasonable, classic hip hop. Before long, we had all gathered around a few of the pool tables. We were joined by Jeff, TJ and Christine, and more. The pool kept going for a few hours, the drinks were still coming, and the music was much better. Jamie and I teamed up against a few others on pool, and won a few rounds! It was great fun. In the end, at about 12.30, I jumped into the car with Ross and Ed, and we got home.

And to bed!


LVC Day (5+1): In, and out again, LA

With the LVC over, and  no hangover this morning, I woke up cheery. We all spent the morning packing, checking the drawers, the bathroom, under the bed, for lost socks, a misplaced book, Jennie’s visa paperwork (don’t wanna lose that), before heading downstairs to get some breakfast from Starbucks. I got a “cheese Danish”, which was actually a custard filled sweet pastry. What is it with America and sweet breakfasts? We were in no rush this morning. Jennie didn’t have to leave until about 10.30, and we had about an hour to kill.

We sat in the lobby, eating and nursing our coffee, and watching a procession of happy LVCers heading out to enjoy their day in California, or travels across the states. Eventually, we brought our bags downstairs and checked out. Daniel and I left our bags at the desk, to pick them up later. We didn’t have to leave the city until the afternoon. Jennie put hers in the back of Thomas’ car, and we all piled in. Tom dropped Daniel and I at Nutsinee’s place around the corner, where we planned our day, and then whisked Jennie away to the airport.

Nutsinee, Daniel and I decided that on this last day in LA, we had to try an In ‘n’ Out burger. We hopped on the metro over to Allen station, and walked around the corner to the burger place. The sun was out, the air was warm, and the city was quite quiet.Jenne had told us how to order. There’s some sort of unwritten menu that you have to order from. I got a “number one”, when asked onions, I answered “grilled”, and added “fries well done” (on Jenne’s suggestion. The food itself was very nice. Maybe the well done fries weren’t that good for me, but the burger was very nice. A very good show, California.

After hitting the burger place, it was pushing towards midday. Daniel and I had decided to take public transport back to the airport, partly for seeing the city, and partly for the cost difference (~$20 vs ~$70). This, however, meant leaving a little earlier, but neither of us minded. So from In ‘n’ Out, we returned to the hotel to gather our bags and head out into the city. Nustinee came with us as far as Union Station. From there, she went on to Thai town to pick up some snacks etc. Daniel and I caught the airport flyer bus from the station there. The bus took about 45 minutes, but Daniel’s very good company.

When we got to the airport, Daniel knew his terminal, but mine wasn’t printed, and my phone was in “just in case battery saver” mode, so I got off the bus with him, and went off in search off my own terminal.  That, eventually, meant terminal 6, which thankfully wasn’t too far from terminal 2. LAX is a much smaller airport than I would have thought it to be.


I arrived to my gate with more than two hours to spare, and the long week was catching up with. I used the time to talk to my family back home, and to read some more of The Princess Bride. *Bing Bong* “Would passenger Brynley Pearlstone on Alaska Air flight AB-XYZ please come to the desk for a message.” I was half way into a very messy (and somewhat disappointing)  burrito (I know, burgers, burritos, but that was the last food I would get until I got home at about 11.30 than night). Anyway, the point is that I had been mmoved into an emergency exit row, so that a family could sit together. And that was fine by me. Those rows get extra leg room. Bonus!

Fifteen minutes later, when it was time to board, I made a bee–line for my seat. Given the position half way down the plane, and the extra 2 feet of leg room, the area right in front of me was a perfect passing point for passengers and stewards who were trying to get to their bags, or to the toilet. After about five minutes of constant lap traffic (giggity), one of the stewardesses leaned in and said “Thanks for being so understanding, we’ll get you something!” and mimed a drink, with a wink.

Just before the flight left, I think right before the doors got locked,a stern looking olderr woman took the vacant seat next to me. When approached by the stewards, she flashed a card on a lanyard, and the stewards seemed to understand. I didn’t catch it just then, but she was obviously somebody important. Maybe an air marshal?

When the drinks trolley came around, the steward who had offered me a cocktail asked what she could get for me. Naturally, a G&T was on the cards. The gin came in one of those miniature bottles, which for no real reason, I decided to holds on to. It looked cute. The servings aren’t as small as you might think. It made for a very strong G&T. The whole flight up to Portland only took about two hours, and by the time I was done nursing my drink, one third of that was already done.


When the food cart came around, the woman next to me got first pick of sandwiches. I decided it was time to ask. “I saw you flash your card earlier, but I didn’t catch it, what is it that you do?” She is a commercial pilot, flying for UPS. That makes sense. She asked what I did, and I told her accordingly that I was an astrophysics grad student. I knew that our two fields had a crossover. I had heard about a telescope that had been mounted in a Boeing 747, so as to escape some of the effects of being on the Earth’s surface. “Oh, you mean SOFIA?” she replied. She had worked at the same institute where SOFIA was operated! It was a nice moment. We chatted some more for the remainder of the flight, but it was only a short hop.

I had about an hour at Portland airport, but it was too late to call home this time. I made straight to my gate, found a seat, and settled in with my laptop. Portland airport seemed very pleasant. The air wasn’t oppressively dry as it was in California or Richland,  it was temperate, the greens and browns of the décor felt earthy. It made me want to visit Oregon state.

When it was finally time to board, I walked out to find another dinky prop plane. I think I kinda prefer it to the big jet engines. When a mother and baby sat next to me, I initially did the internal eye roll. Perfect. But after chatting to the very friendly mother, the girl behind us and the man in front, the baby seemed perfectly happy and even excited to be on the plane. She didn’t sleep at all for the 45 minutes that we were in the air, but she didn’t make a sound either.


Just prior to take off, after the aeroplane safety dance, the stewards announced that they had a complimentary local beer on this flight. It was, apparently, my lucky day! It was only a short flight, but in that time, I was offered a refill of my cup of beer. The mother next to me was good conversation, as we tried to work out what settlement constituted the lights that we passed over.

When we landed at Pasco at about 10:40pm, I knoew that everybody who I would normally ask for a lift, Darkhan, Vinny, Evan, Nutsinee, were all either still in LA, or visiting other places for the weekend. So I called a taxi, and rode home in the back. On arriving at the apartment, I didn’t even try to unpack, I just went straight to my room, put my phones on to charge, and lay in bed.

It was a quiet end to a very busy week. I knew that I’d have to come down from the social high of the conference at some time, as well as recuperate for some time. I knew that in the next week, Vinny would leave to Eugene, Darkhan would visit Kazakhstan, and would move in somewhere else when he returned. I knew that a week later, Hang would leave too. It felt as though very soon, Richland was going to be very quiet. For better or for worse. But thatt was to come. Right now, bed called.




LVC Day 5

The last day of the LVC. The last morning muffin of the LVC. Last night was a mistake. None the less, I got up, showered and dressed, and headed downstairs for the conference.

By this point, I had had it with muffins. I knew that I had to eat, but is bacon too much to ask for? I put on my best face, and went about mingling in the morning. These kinds fo conference are draining to all involved, not just those (like myself) who have too much fun. By the end of the week, attendance to the talks drops, and people are breaking off to work on their own, or go out and do other things.

One of these other things that was happening today was an impromptu look around the Caltech 40m prototype. Jess had gathered a little band together to go, but as it transpired, the party left without us.  So I went back in to the talks to watch the burst stuff.

Today, the last day of the conference, was the last of the data analysis sessions in the morning, and some diversity and equality, commissioning and Joint Run Planning Council (JRPC) talks in the afternoon.  Having already seen the CW talks rehearsed, I figured it wasn’t vitally important that I sit through them. In the break room, everybody was either deep into their work, or deep in what looked like an important conversation. There were a tonne of people missing compared to Monday’s breaks, either in the talks or away doing their own thing. I headed back to the hotel room for some quiet time. On the way, I ran into Vinny. We ended up in my room watching telly.

By mid day, we decided to trry again at the conference, heading down to look in at the talks. But before long, my hangover took over. I needed meat and grease. Jenne had been talking about this burger place, In n Out Burger, all week, and I needed some of that action. Unfortunately, In n Out was quite a way away. Solution: head out into Pasadena and look for a burger place. Vinny, Cao and I all went out together for an early lunch.

We ended up at a place called Umami Burger. It was very hipster. White walls, big prints of popular art. Every burger wasn’t a burger, but a gourmet experience. It was a little too much. When Vinny’s egg burger came out, the server told us “It’s a part of the presentation with this dish that I pierce it”. She took Vinny’s knife and jammed it hard into the burger to break the yolk. The food was nice, but the whole thing was unnecessary.

After a stop at the frozen yogurt place, we headed back towards the hotel. There was still a lot of the lunch break left over, so Vinny and I headed back up to my room to keep watching Sunny.

I felt guilty about missing the morning, and some of the commissioning talks and JRPC talks looked interesting, so I rejoined the plenaries for the final session. The commissioning talks made a lot more sense after having seen last years’, and having spent some time around commissioners at the site. The JRPC talk, which outlined the plans surrounding future engineering runs and observing runs also was interesting. It looks like I’ll be at Hanford during ER9 – a week long single detector practice run. Gaby spoke at the close out of the LVC, wrap up slides, summarising what had been. She had photos from Nutsinee, including one of my sick dancing (Tuesday’s featured image). And a forward look to this autumn’s LVC in Glasgow. And with that, this LVC was done.

Outside, in the break area, everybody was milling around, saying goodbyes and making plans for the remainder of their stay in Pasadena. Myself included. Some of us made plans to visit China Town for dinner, then head up to Griffith Observatory that evening. But the sessions ended early, so after half an hour of goodbyes and “Next time in Glasgow”s, I went back upstairs for an hour of downtime with the TV. Vinny joined me again. After about 30 minutes, Vinny had a phone call, so left. Daniel came in at that point. I was to head out with him in half an hour, so feeling refreshed after downtime, I joined Daniel down in the lobby and prepared to go out.

Daniel, Ansel and I  jumped on the metro into China Town, where we were to meet Terra and Nutsinee, who had managed to get lost in East Hollywood in their car. We poked around China Town for half an hour waiting for them. We met at the proposed dim sum restaurant, wherein the entertainment for the evening was a stage magiciam followed by a family celebration. As it tradition with chinese cuisine, we ordered enough food to feed an army, and got through not even half of it.

After the magician, a family took the stage to sing some really, very out of key karaoke. I mean as flat as a pancake. By this point, we were done eating and just hanging around waiting for the bill. Nutsinee particularly was very eager to get away from the din. When we did eventually leave, all 5 of us packed into Terra’s rental car and headed up to Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park. I had been tipped off that this was the place to see the Hollywood sign, and whilst that was true, it only works by day. By this point, we were pushing 9pm.

The observatory sits high over the city and is open now as a museum. During the day, you can tour the telescope, but the museum portion is open until 10pm. It was busy that night, I couldn’t tell you why, but we had to park ten minutes down the road and walk the last section. Daniel set up hit tripod for long exposure shots. Nutsinee, misunderstanding our earlier conversation about the Royal Society, shot off in search of Newton’s original mnuscript of Principia Mathematica. A fruitless effort, given that it lives in London. I headed to the observatory roof to get some nice views over the city. The whole thing seems like it would be excellent to do during the day, but wasn’t a waste of time at night either. Digital cameras, though, don’t tend to do so well at night.

Soon though, the park was closing, and we made a rush back to the car. We all, understandably, were tired, so it was back to the hotel for the evening. Daniel and I headed straight upstairs to cool down for ten minutes, before Daniel decided to look at city hall by night with his camera. I wasn’t ready to call it a night yet, so I went back down to the lobby to see who was about.

As Daniel left the hotel, Vinny entered. I had only heard from him briefly since his phone call, and it wasn’t good news. I took the chance to talk it through him. There had been trouble brewing for a while, apparently. We talked  until he went to bed 45 minutes later..

I went back to the lobby, where it seemed the Detcharians were having a cool gathering. Andy, Jess, TJ, Thomas, Marissa, Jennie and more. I joined in with them, talking of this and that, until it really was time to call it a night. It was just about the only time this week when I wasn’t the last in. Jennie, Daniel and I chatted for a little before silence and sleep fell.

And with that, the LVC was done. I had one last day in Pasadena, leaving Saturday afternoon. Stay tuned for that post, coming soon. Eventually. I promise.

LVC Day 4

Even though I hadn’t had too much to drink the previous night, the lateness, as well as it being the 3rd or 4th night on the trot made it all the more painful waking up. As I was sitting in bed chatting to Daniel, waiting for Jennie to finish in the shower, I got a call from Joe. Morning calls are usually a fixture, but the schedule had been a little tight this week, so I jumped at the chance to get as much chat in as I could.

Another day, another muffin. I just wanted bacon. Just once. But a muffin and a bucket of coffee later, and I felt only slightly more human.The agenda for the talks today were predominantly data analysis focussed – computing budget, burst search results,  and stochastic search updates. I always think that the stochastic updates are neat – their group, instead of looking for individual events or sources, are more concerned with detecting an ensemble of unresolved results. As such, they have extremely different results to present, from some relatively off-the-wall methods when compared to other search groups.

Alas, the week was starting to take its toll (and yes, I did just use the word “alas”), and after a talk or two, I decided that what I really needed was some peace and quiet. Sitting in the back of the dark room just wasn’t secluded enough. Unfortunately, though,  housekeeping were in the hotel room, so I came back down and felt sorry for myself for the next hour, until the morning break.

The day carried on in much the same, but food at lunch perked me up. Look, I don’t think that muffins and pastries are in any way appropriate for a breakfast. Not even once. The addition of melons and strawberries was no consolation either.

Lunch on Thursday was the LAAC lunch – some of the LAAC guest alumni stuck around to talk to current LIGO students, and this was our chance to rub elbows. I sat on a table with Tobin, an ex-LIGO now Google employee in San Francisco. The food was mexican – but I couldn’t tell you what. I honestly can’t tell the difference between the styles of wrap. The talk at the table was interesting – not just on experiences post-LIGO, but also about what it’s like to work at different institutes, the benefits of working in various working groups, and the like.

After lunch, I was back in the hall for the stochastic talks. Always interesting, and always eye opening. Their aims, to detect the gravitational wave background, is like trying to characterise the murmur of conversation at a bar, but not to resolve any individual words. It strikes as particularly challenging as their search isn’t for a given waveform, or for loud events, but is very dependant on cosmological models. It’s a unique challenge within the LVC, and utterly fascinating.

After the final plenary of the day, we were kicked out so that the hotel staff could set up for the conference dinner. Vinny, Paul, Daniel, myself and a few others decided to head to Caltech to have a nose around. On the way to meet the others at reception, I was stopped by Susan. I recognised her from the dance floor on Tuesday night. She said that she was here with a film crew, and were filming the event for a post-discover era documentary. She told me that she likes to interview people with more energy, and that she was impressed by what she had seen on the dance floor. Susan asked if I would be happy to be interviewed for the documentary, and of course, I jumped at the chance. It meant that I had to reduce the amount of time I had at Caltech, but that was a trade I was willing to make. I was to meet her when I got back later.

The walk to Caltech took about 20 minutes, and when we got there, none of us knew where we were going, or how to get into any buildings, let alone which ones would be best.

We milled around the courtyards for a while, but before long, I had to head back to meet with Susan. Before I went in front of the camera, whilst they were talking to Nutsinee, she asked me some questions about my research, about what I felt about the kind of events that go on,  and about what its like working in the collaboration. Then, it was my time. I sat on a stool, I was micced up, and Susan led me into the interview gently. It was a nice experience – though I became very aware, as I was speaking into the camera, that what I said now might be made public, so I had to pick my words a bit more carefully than I might otherwise.

And then it was done. in ten or fifteen minutes of the same questions all over again, I was excused, un-micced, and I was on my way.

The conference dinner that evening in the ballroom was on the face of it a formal affair. Large round white tables, white tablecloths, a 2 forks, 3 glasses, and a waiting service. I had chosen to sit on a table with some familiar faces, and ended up sitting next to Max Isi – a Caltech student who I had seen about, and who worked within the CW group, but never had a reason to talk to. He made for good dinner company. The food of the evening was nice, a salad to start, chicken (was my choice) for main course, and a nice fruit tart for dessert.

After the food, it was time for the talks. Always expected at this kind of event, and usually delivered by Gaby, plus someone from the hosting institute, it was a little different this time. These talks were presented as a retrospective of how LIGO, Virgo and GEO came to be. The first speaker, Rai, spoke about how he came to the idea of an interferometer and about how it was to work on the prototypes at Caltech. What stuck with me was how different the landscape of the field was then. It seemed like there were just a fistful of people working in a lab. I guess with the tinted glasses of retrospection, all things tend toward fondness.

The second speaker, whose name I did not catch, told a parallel story of how the field developed in Germany, right from the early Webber bar detectors up to the start of the interferometric era with prototypes towards GEO. Third, Jim Hough spoke about how Ron Dreaver drove the field in Glasgow, about the 10m prototype, about how the British-German coalition came together to form GEO, and about the development of the 4-stage seismic isolation. The whole thing felt like looking back through a family tree, and exploring what led us, as LIGO, as Virgo, and as individual scientists, to work in the landscape that exists today.

After the speakers had done their part, the dinner guests broke out, some to the bar, some to their rooms, and some out into town. I stayed at the hotel bar for a time. The drinks had been discounted for this last night of the conference, which made a nnice change. As I was outside chatting in the courtyard, it seemed as though most of the conference was heading to the same bar – T Boyle’s – for some St. Patrick’s day celebration.

Foolishly, I joined them.


The atmosphere there was great. LIGO made up about half, if not more, of the patrons there that night. The bar had a cover band in. They weren’t particularly good, nor were they particularly bad, but they were having a good time, and it was reflected in what they played. The whole LVC crowd occupied the upstairs balcony area, more than thirty of us, easily.

As the night wore on, I found myself hanging outside with some others, gasping for air. There, I managed to meet what might be the only other LVC scientist from Somerset! He, Tom, was from Cheddar, and it was nice chatting to hiGuinessm. Once the band had finished playing, it was only another half hour before the bar kicked everyone out for the night. At that point, the group split into three. One party headed back to the hotel, another went to somebody’s apartment to carry on the fun, and a third party split off in search of alcohol to take to the apartment.

I found myself in that third party, but after ten minutes of walking back and forth and getting exactly nowhere, I figured that I should really go back to the hotel and split off to walk back alone.

You can see the aproximate locations on the map (you might have to pan down to California)

When I got to the hotel, I found a subset of that first returning party in the lobby. Having come back already, they had changed their mind and decided that they really wanted to stay  out. I have no will power, and am very susceptible to peer pressure (at least, that’s what I tell myself to make me feel better about bad decisions), so I ended up walking the 8 or so blocks with the others to the apartment.

When we got there, before we could even ring the apartment bell, bodies came pouring out. Duncan frustratedly said that they had had a noise complaint (it was very late on Thursday night) and the guests had to leave. That was it for me. It was definitely a bad idea to stay out any longer, so I turned tail and led some people back to the hotel.

By this point, I was pretty proficient at slipping back into the hotel room.

[Featured image left to right: Me, Darkhan, Vinny, Cao, Evan]


LVC Day 3

Another day, another muffin. Another night of not as much sleep as I ought to have had. Another cup of coffee.

Wednesday was the first day of the plenary sessions, these are the broad reaching talks which are aimed at all of the LVC, not just specialised talks for those who work closely to the subject. Today was the parallel session for the LAAC (LIGO Academic Affairs Council), where I aimed my attention first.

I was quite dismayed to see that the LAAC didn’t do in their session as others had done in theirs. Instead of discussing academic affairs, whatever that might entail, the LAAC session was run as a tutorial for a discreet set of topics which are very relevant to some, and less so for others. After the tutorials, the LAAC had gathered some LIGO alumni who had since moved on to work in big industries, which seemed like a much more relevant topic. Honestly, though I wasn’t pleased with the content of the LAAC session, I wouldn’t know how to run one. It couldn’t be on university policies, or academic writing tutorials, as the collaboration is far to big to cover all bases. I just didn’t like that session.

At my first opportunity, I left for the other plenary talks, which were running in parallel in the largest room, where last night there was  dance floor. At every LVC meeting, the first few talks are “The State Of X” talks: the state of the LVC, the state of the LIGO Labs, the state of Virgo, the state of LIGO India, the state of KAGRA. Last year, at my first LVC, the talks were interesting, but thick, and hard to get through, as a first introduction to each detector. At this, my second LVC, the talks seemed like a jovial “Hey, how’s it going” exchange. Now that I’m acquainted with each machine (even slightly), suddenly, it’s a lot easier to be interested.

The general feeling was one of progress. In fact, KAGRA, the Japanese detector in the Kamioka mines, had managed to lock its Michaelson interferometer earlier that very day. LIGO India had achieved “in principle” funding, and was generally looking up, Virgo was well into its construction, but was teething, and LIGO was between observing runs, commissioning, but still reeling over GW150914.

After a brief lunch, I took a walk to the tea shop with Daniel. We discussed this and that, ideas about LIGO India and Virgo, and had some very nice iced tea to cool us down. The afternoon plenaries were more general overview type talks. Interesting, and nice to see, but not really much to comment on.

Later that afternoon, once about fifty people were bussed over to visit SpaceX for a tour (what, no I’m not jealous), we had the poster session. First was the flurry of sparkling presentations. Each a one minute snapshot of a poster as an advertisement. I tried to convince Vinny and Jennie to give a talk, even though they hadn’t prepared a slide. It was a “They’ll only do it if you do” kind of persuasion. Sorry guys! We moved into the poster room, and all milled around the posters.

This is the first conference for which I didn’t have to create a poster, it was nice to be able to look around. I had an eye out for posters on CWs and CW searches, but I didn’t see a single one! Perhaps I should make one next time, just so we get a showing.  I asked a few people whose poster wasn’t about GW150914 about their poster (there had been a lot of information about GW150914 in the months leading the conference). Some of the interferometry ones were quite interesting, but they were mostly from Glasgow, so I’m biased!

That evening, I had plans, meeting up with a tenuously traced family of a friend of my family, who lives in LA, and was described as something of a science nut. I had planned to take him out to a house party at Jenne, Jeff at Nutsinee’s Airbnb. But before that, I had to cram in some food. I met with Daniel and Sudarshan in the hotel lobby, and we walked down Colorado Avenue to see what was around.

We settled on a noodle place, where I had veggie ramen and Thai iced tea (which, by the way, is tasty). It was nice meeting Sudarshan – I had heard his name banded around LHO, as he was here for about 18 months before heading back to Eugene, Oregon. I never got to meet him before this week. Names and faces, right?

Having eaten, I waited in the hotel for Dave to show up. He was coming to meet me at the hotel. He arrived about 8 o’clock. On the way to the house, we chatted a little. He described his job – an editor for some mindless reality tv shows, the example he gave was Keeping Up with the Kardashians. But what he really wants to do is to be a writer. He has some children’s books on youtuve as audiobooks.

We  arrived to the house party, it was a pretty chilled affair, beers, sofas, music through laptop speakers, and a whole bunch of LIGO people. In one corner of the room, ten minutes after we arrived, Jamie started playing his LIGO boardgame with a few others. The game lasted about an hour.

We keep half an eye on the game, whilst Cao, Cody and I picked Dave’s brains about the media industry, about living in L.A., and he asked us a bunch of questions about gravity, quantum entanglement, and some other cool weird physics. After a beer or two, he headed off just after midnight. I stayed for another half hour and chatted to those who were there.

At the time of night when others were struggling to make plans to split an Uber, or whether to get a Lyft instead, Cao and I decided that it would not be beneficial for anybody if we stayed. We walked the mile or so home, and I snuck into the hotel room when we got back.

LVC Day 2

Another day, another muffin.

Though this time breakfast ofr me also included various melons. After a coffee, a mingle with some GWers, and a mouthful of sugar, it was off to the San Diego room for the second, and final day of the CW f2f meetings.

Today, many of the talks were focussed on sharing results from the old science runs S5 and S6 from iLIGO, as well as a few quick glances at preliminary stuff from O1. Not just the results, though, but updates in various pipelines. There was a little bit of musical chairs and some talks weren’t going to be presented, so others were brought forward.

At lunch, Jenne had promised to introduce me to her friend Greg, a researcher at Walla Walla (A town not too far from the Tri-Cities) who knew all of the good gay bars near Pasadena. His favourite was a country themed bar where they have square dancing lessons. It sounds fun, but not really my thing, and I didn’t bring the right shoes for all of that. We met over salad and pasta, though the lunch hall was busy by the time we got there. I managed to not sit by him to eat, instead sitting by Ryan – the network specialist at Hanford. Ryan and I spoke about this and that, having not really exchanged much more than a “hello” before now. So that was nice. Following food, a handful of people, myself included walked around the neighbourhood, to catch the sun whilst it was out.

After lunch, I headed back into the f2f talks to catch Avi’s talk. He had been doing some theoretical work on Ekman pumping and GW emission within a neutron star, modelling the length of this kind of glitch. I presented the paper upon which his work was based at journal club a few weeks back, but it was nice to see it again, and he furthered the work to predict the length scale of tCW emissions in various fluid models. It was a really interesting presentation.

After the next session, in the afternoon break, a few of us CWers met about tCWs. There are a core group of 8 or 9 people who work towards this, mostly distributed in Glasgow (myself, Matt and Graham) and AEI Hanover (Avi, MAP, Reinhard, David etc), all working on this common goal (all be it in a handful of parallel ways). It was twenty minutes to discuss ideas, implementation, and prospects for development and incorporation into pipelines.

After the break/meeting, I had decided that I would sit in with the EPO (education and public outreach) meeting for a moment, before Grant’s talk back at CW. Martin, Glasgow’s head of school for P&A was there, so before the meeting got started, I chatted to him about some ideas around the Glasgow Science Festival week in June, about some scrapbook  of highlights from this blog, a short video log in various places about LIGO, maybe a time lapse of the the Y-arm from the roof over a day to get the sunset and the stars moving around.

When the meeting got started later than I expected, there was talk about a board game developed called “Observe”. It’s a LIGO game, where players, each with their own model IFO, must prioritise commissioning, research or observation in order to first detect gravitational waves! Let me find a link – no luck, it wasn’t in the slides. I’ll come back when I find it.

[EDIT: The link to the game is here: It’s still somewhat beta, but it’s VERY playable, and quite fun]

Before we could get to the social media part, where I might have brought up this blog, I headed back to the CW room to catch the last two or three f2f talks for this meeting. Sfter which, it was time for the LAAC’s Detection Party.

We had each been given one free drink token for this night, though it couldn’t be used on the LIGO cocktails that were made special for the occasion. After an hour of wine and nibbles on trays, we were called into one of the larger rooms rooms for the obligatory speech from Gaby. (Gaby being the LVC’s spokesperson, who must spend ~50% of her time writing one speech or another announcement).

After some well picked words, a few rounds of applause, it was time for our world record attempt – the worlds biggest chirp. Chirping was a social media campaign started about the time of the detection, where chirpers would sing the sound of a BBH inspiral (Well, it’s really a BNS as they’re generally higher pitched and longer). We had a few hundred people doing it all at once. A ceremonial slice of GW150914 cake was cut, and it was go time for the party.


[Image credit to Conor Mow-Lowry]

In one corner of the largest room, the hotel had set up a small dance floor, and had some big ol’ speakers hooked up to an iPod. After a first dance from David Reitze and Gaby, everybody piled in and had a good time to some cheesy classics for a few hours. Dancing in Cali gets warm. By 10 though, the hotel said it was time to move along. My mind went straight to karaoke. A quick google showed that a place nearby, Barney’s Beanery, was the only karaoke bar for miles.

A handful of us, maybe 10 or 15 headed that was, but when we got there, the place was busy, and karaoke was off the table. It was, after all, a Tuesday night. We decided that it would perhaps be better to go somewhere quieter with a more chilled atmosphere. In the Beanery, we ran into some faces from the LVC – Christian and Melody, who recommended a spot around the corner, King’s Row, saying that they’d meet us there.

And that they did. It was a nice bar. We each had a go at buying each other drinks, we chatted about this and that, order 2 plates of chips (fries). Jennie and I, both from Glasgow, were talking to Melody a lot about Margot, mostly old stories from her days at Caltech. Melody and Margot were once, it seems, best buds. By 12.30am it was well past time to head back to the hotel. Sneaking in, trying not to wake the other two would get easier throughout the week.

[Header image credit: Nutsinee Kijbunchoo]

LVC Day 1

These meetings tend to start relatively early, not with the talks just before 9, but with the breakfast. It’s the first chance to catch up with colleagues since the last big conference, as many people come from far and wide. But for me as well, it’s a good chance to say hello to Glasgow researchers.

The GW community is very easy to get on with – particularly, data analysts from the CW, CBC and Burst groups tend to be very happy to get to know each other! (I’m sure the stochastic group is too, but I have not really interacted with them so much.)  For this conference,, people have come from all over the world – there are a few hundred attendees.antendeesantendees

Breakfast that day, as it seems to have been every day, was sweet. Muffins (mine tasted like bubblegum), glazed pastries, and fruits were on offer. And of course, coffee. What are academics without coffee. A munch and a chinwag later, and breakfast is done. There wasws a great deal of excitement, as LIGO just finished its first advanced observing run, and there was new data to look at for the first time in 5 years. The obvious announcement of the first detection asside, there is much more that the data has yet to reveal. This meeting would be a great place to share any possible first sign of whatever may come out of the woodwork.

The talks for the first two days of the conference are split into several parallel working group face to face (f2f) meetings. Certainly for the CW group, its a chance to share the progress that each group has made towards the working group’s many common goals.

Before the f2f started, I had a chance to catch up with my supervisor, Graham. I learned then that he reads these posts. Hi Graham. Graham was to chair the meeting with an iron fist – we had about 30 presentations to get through in two days, and historically, much like the CW pipelines, the talks have a tendency to run long! (That’s not fair – that’s common to all kinds of conferences). The presentations covered a lot of ground, from alterations to search pipelines to a look at results from science runs old and new – though the new results from the new were only rough preliminary first looks, it was exciting to see what aLIGO was capable of, right off the bat in O1.

The first break came at about 10.30, and I had a mission: to sort out my bank card. There was a Chase bank nearby, and they did, in fact, have a card printer there. I took the chance on the walk there and back to catch up with my dad, as it was still early afternoon in the UK.

In the second morning session on Monday, I made a few quick edit to my slides. I had agr to meet with Vinny and Robert ot go through them over lunch, so I wanted to have them in a presentable form. With our talk looming that afternoon, I could feel nerves starting to kick in. Even though sitting in the CW f2f felt very informal (and I’m sure I would feel a lot more relaxed if it was a [resentatiion to just CW folks), the inclusion of Detchar and Stochastic to the talk, and the larger room was a little daunting.

Robert OK’ed the slides, with a few edits here and there – clarification, notation, nothing major. Which was a relief. Working with Robert and Vinny benefits from their relaxed attitudes! When the talk came around, we just went through it, and took the questions and suggestions from the floor. The session was interesting – joint Detchar/CW/Stochastic. All of the groups are interested in probing deep into the spectrum with high frequency resolution, so noise lines and combs are of primary concerns. I think that the stochastic group have some really cool tools to help identify this kind of thing.

And with that, the first day was done. In principle, work was done for the day, though evening networking means that meetings and smaller discussions can carry on for much longer if needs be. I took the opportunity, on this first night of the conference, to go out for dinner with Graham. We had asked Alan Weinstein for suggestions – which we ultimately ignored. But Alan clued Graham up to the antics that I had achieved at the last LVC, in Budapest, where we had accidentally skipped dinner in favour of karaoke.

Graham and I headed out towards Old Pasadena to look for somewhere to eat, but with neither of us having a good idea of what was around, we settled pretty quickly on a compromise. It wasn’t out in the sun, nor on a side street. Instead , it was the Cheesecake Factory. It was nice talking to Graham, one on one, outside of work. It’s not something that I had done before, but it was refreshing. The conversation did eventually turn to work, but not in an ominous way, or a forced way, and I came away from it with a clear feeling of the direction I’m heading once I’m back from the USA, and a fuzzy feeling in my head from the beer. We came back to the hotel for about 7.30, and with the night still young, I set about making further plans.

Vinny responded the net I cast out. I met him in the lobby, where he led us to a car. A car, in LA!? He had a friend who moved here a few years ago, Derrek. He works in biotechnology. I got in the car and was asked “What do you wanna see?” Pretty quickly, we settled on Hollywood Boulevard. Well aware that it was a tourist trap, and probably not really worth devoting a full evening to. Besides, Derrek couldn’t stay out late. We whizzed along the highways and byways into downtown LA, found a place to park up, and strolled on down. We saw Iron Man, Batman and Black Elvis, all posing with happy tourists.

Outside of the Chinese Theatre, we poked around the handprints and footprints, and looked at some of the stars in the paving stones along the street. We wandered up to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not – quite possibly the most bizzare concept for a musem – a modern day freak show, and recreations of things that seem freaky. I just didn’t get it.

After 20 minutes, we headed back to the car, and came back to the hotel. Vinny and I stayed up for a drink or two at the hotel bar ($9 for a G&T!) before heading to bed and drawing day 1 to a close.


LVC Part 0 – Prologue

Physicists like to count from 0. It kinda makes sense. In this case, LVC Part 0 describes the events related to, but before the start of, the LVCere’s the map. Pan south to California for more locations from today/yesterday

On Saturday, after spending a few hours on site helping out with some outreach stuff, it was time for md to mapd to mape to head home. A friendly guy, very chatty and enthusiastic, Chris gave me a ride each way, which was nice of him. After a few hours at home gather my thoughts and things, Vinny came a-knocking. He had agreed to give me a ride to the airport. Bags in back, chatting up front. Twenty minutes later, he drops me off.

Pasco airport is a small operation, I overheard the people at the checking desk discussing who would load the luggage onto the plane. It’s a small operation. The TSA agents didn’t mind that I had a little bit of toothpaste in my bag. It’s a small operation. This was the plane that was to take me over the Cascades and into Seattle.

It’s a small operation. Yes, those are propellors. Yes, I was sat right next to them. Yes, the whole way, I was terrified that one would shake lose and tear through the plane’s cabin.

Needless to say, it didn’t. It did make a nicer noise than a jet engine though. The ride was surprisingly smoothe, and quite pretty (though cameras didn’t capture it too well.

Arriving in Seattle, I had about half an hour to find my next gate. Seattle Tacoma airport is quite big. I had to take a subway from one block of gates to another. That was different. But I made the plane in good time. It was a much bigger plane, and I was sat inbetween two others.

With the woma

n to my right, I had some decent chat. She had moved around the states a lot, and had some friends acting as missionaries in Africa, and had once gone on a two or three day date to the Bahamas. Two hours later, and a few pages of my book (The Princess Bride) later, and we were coming down over LA. From the sky, I could see its sprawls in all directions. From the tall buildings of downtown out to the Pasadena hills. But bear in mind, this was at 10.30 at night, so I couldn’t really see anything except for the lights of the city.


On getting off at LAX, I had arranged for a taxi to pick me up. I called the number they supplied, but through the furore at the taxi stand, I couldn’t hear him. After twenty (20) minutes of striding back and forth and shouting into a cheap phone, I finally found my driver. He said to look out for a Toyota Prius – every other taxi here is a Toyota Prius. But anyway, eventually i get into my prepaid taxi and after ten minutes of him faffing about with the slowest typing into google maps, logging my pickup into a tablet, we leave for Pasadena. His car makes funny noises, the accelerator makes us lurch forwards whenever he steps on it, very regularly, and more than once, we nearly cut into another car’s path as we wander out of our lane. I knew when he took the wrong turning at a roundabout – twice – that this man was not getting tipped.

I did, however, arrive to the hotel in one piece, I made a bee line to the room that I would be sharing with Jennie and Daniel, and knocked to be let in. By this point it’s about 11:50, they both flew west to come here today, and were almost certainly jet lagged. I was not. It was only fair for me to go straight to bed and not disturb them any more than I needed to.

Morning came.


And with it, a chance to catch up with my friends, explore m


y surroundings (the room), and prepare for the day. After a wee chat with the pair of them, Jennie handed me something she’d been holding onto for a while – a Christmas present.



Thanks, Jennie! Following that, we exchanged stories, took turns showering, and hchristmaseaded out to find something to eat, and some coffee at Starbucks around the corner. The three of us sat there soon amassed a larger greoup, first one of Jennie’s friends, Holger, for AEI in Germany, the Cao, from LHO, and then some other Aussies who had found permanent positions at Caltech. After about an hour of chatting about this and that, we made waves back towards the Hilton. I had to pick some things up from Nutsinee.

Ok, this is where things start getting a bit involved – are you ready? On Saturday, I was notified that someone had used my bank account fraudulently, and Chase had stopped that payment and cancelled my card. I couldn’t get a new card any time soon. The working plan for the time being is to survive off cash until Monday, when I can creep out pf the meeting to go d to mapget a new card printed at a bank (some places do that here). So if I want to go sightseeing with Nutsinee (which I did, and did), I had to warn her of my situation (which I did). She was very good at covering all the necessary costs, though honestly, it was all made easier by online centralised payment. .

We started our tour of LA by stopping at a tea shop in Pasadena near to the Metro station, where Cao caught up to us. Then, the three of us jumped onto a train into the city. Then a train out of the city and towards the tar pits. There is a museum devoted to all of the fossil finds that have been pulled from the tar, and it really was fascinating. Generally ice aged mammals, giant sloths, mammoths, sabre-tooth tigers. And an entire wall of dire wolf skulls. Here are a bunch of photos from the museum:

Outdside of the museum, they have some tar pits that they’re still excavating. I did not realise how stinky tar was. It smells like hot tarmack. Big surprise there. In the open pits, they had displayed crates of finds, fully realised and potential alike. We wondered around a bit to see what was on offer.




We had more marks to hit for the day, and only limited time, as thatt’s how days work, so we stopped to get lunch at a burger van, before calling an Uber to take us to our next stop – the Natural History Museum.

The ride was longer than I had expected. I vastly underestimated the size of Los Angeles. Our driver for the day, Guy, made good chat, and got us there safely. Once there, we just got on with it, knowing we only had an hour and a half to see it all.

We started with the Still like moulds of animals room, a big dark room with still life moulds of animals positioned in windows to look realistic. Next, we moved on to what I call the bullshit room. It had rxhibits detailing the development of the city of LA, of technology, from simple tools until this gem:

Dear LA. I know that you like to stay on the cutting edge, ahead of the curve with global trends, but let me tell you this:  it is neither natural, nor is it history. This whole exhibit needs to go. Sincerely, Bryn.

Then we did the dinosaur bit. That was fun. There were halls full of dinosaur fossils, from a T-Rex diorama, to displays illustrating the difference off bone structure in different kinds of dinosaur. It was genuinely interesting, and quite informative. Surprising nobody, the bones were giant. Skulls that must have weighed tens of kilograms, vertebrae that I wouldn’t try to lift, and thigh bones to be reckoned with.

My favourite though, as they always have been, were the long necked Sauropods. As a kid, I treasured a plastic toy diplodocus from the NHM in London, and seeing it all again with adult eyes was fantastic.  Here are a few snaps:

After we were done with the Cretaceous pewriod, it was the time for the mammals. The NHM had a whole other wing devoted to early mammals, but having just come from the tar pits, it was all a little “been there, done that”, so we did a lightning round before going to find the fossil lab. Just like the tar pit had people behind plexiglass sorting fossils from dirt, the NHM had palaeontologists behind plexiglass tidying up fossil samples from the field. It was really cool, and the museum guide there had some good tidbits to shed on the subject matter. Photos!

After that, we were lagging, and it was fast approaching 5pm. This was our only day free in LA, and we had used it up, and it was time to head back and be adults. We made our way to the metro andmade the hour-and-a-half journey back to the hotel. Jennie and Vinny both were eager to make food plans, but I had to sort out some presentation work with Vinny first, so Jenny went off to do her own thing for dinner. In the ten minutes between getting to the hotel and getting to the room, I bumped into a whole host of familliar faces, some Detcharians (detector characteristic folks), some glasgow


people, some AEI people. The hotel was overflowing with familiar faces, it was great!

Vinny and I went through the presentation, clearing some slides, divvying up the speaking parts, and preparing ourselves for presenting tomorrow. It’s not all sorted yet, but it’s well on the way. Then, after a five minute recess, we went out to dinner ourselves. Marissa and Tara from LLO were to join us, but they had other matters to tend to first. But Cao joined us. And the three of us went out to eat.

We settled quickly on a nearby place – BJ’s Brewhouse (don’t giggle), and settled in for a meal and a drink. The waitress was very friendly, and indulged us in our silly arguments. Vinny got offended that I dipped my chips in mayonnaise, and I was offended that he ate pizza with a knife and form. We were both generally offended at Cao’s taste for beetroot in a burger. It was a really fun meal. Half way through, a host of faces showed up by our booth, including Karl Wette, Evan, Miriam, Jamie Scott and others. They decided to eat at the same place, but were sat far away, so that was the extent of our interaction for the evening.

On the way back to the hotel, we walked a few blocks out of the way, to aid with digestion, and carry on the rapport that we’d established. In the lobby, a LIGO crowd had amassed by the bar, so we mingled and settled for the evening.


All in all, it’s been a busy, fun, packed and great day. Day 0 of the conference is usually like that. It’s been fantastic seeing old faces, talking to people again and getting out to explore the city that’s hosting us for the next week.

Stay tuned for more! Tomorrow, CW Face to face meeting day 1! Nail biting stuff.

The week before the conference

You had my reflective post earlier this week. Whilst I’m still feeling a bit airy, I’ll try not to focus on it today. I’ve had other things to do! Let’s do it differently today, instead of day by day, I’ll do it part-by-part.

The science part:

After a slow start to the week, Thursday and Friday really got some things moving. On Thursday morning, I started with a bang. Elli had finished her experiment. We couldn’t do what we wanted until she was done, it would have messed with her results, and she and Cao leave for Australia directly from the conference next week.

Anyway, what this means is that on Thursday morning, Richard told me that it was time to “Do the thing”. First, I had to do the fetch-quest known as a work permit. Then it was go time. I grabbed Vinny and Fil, and we went into the EBAY and we watched and commented as Fil did the thing. It was all done before 10.30. It was almost an anticlimax! All we had to do now to see if it worked was to wait for a good interferometer lock.

For the rest of Thursday, I had been talking to Keith, one of the co-chairs of the continuous wave  data analysis group, about the next targets to go after. It seems that starting one of these investigations can be a bit slow – looking through a long list of coherent PEM channels, getting the right frequency band, Vinny and I both picked a list of channels and got plot-happy.

In the meantime, Robert had asked me to hunt down the point that a line appeared in the strain spectrum, so I scrolled back through the summary pages and looked. When that failed on days without enough lock, I made some plots to pinpoint the day. Nothing exciting.

I finished looking through the summaries this morning, before seeing if the IFO locked overnight, It did not. No results today.

Onto the next task – reviewing the coherence plots. We did not see the coherence that we were suppose to. That doesn’t seem right. So we scratched heads, looked at a few more plots, then decided that it was best to consult Robert.

We decided in the end that instead it was prudent to throw together a code to bulk process a bunch of channel. Vinny threw that together, and we both ran it.

The apartment Part

Stefan arrive late on Tuesday night – and is never at home. He’s generally at the site from 8am to 11pm, and whilst Hang’s supervisor is here, he’s pulling the same kinds of shifts. By virtue of this, I tend to have the evenings to myself at home. Normally, though, it’s not as good a thing as you might expect. On Wednesday, I was expecting Darkhan to come over and finish his mouseguard character generation. He fell asleep though. So I tidies, watched netflix, cooked and chilled.

On Thursday, Vinny came over after work to watch Sunny, and have some food. That successfully killed a few hours. By 8 though, he departed. Darkhan did make it back over to finish his character. In fact, I will post a prologue to the mouseguard campaign to try to characterise the guardmice.

Then on Friday, much the same. Home, cook, chill, except this time, I packed for the LVC. Stuffed a week’s worth of clothes and books and chargers into a bag to take onto the airplane. .





Marching on

The start of March came last week. Next week, I’m away from the Tri-cities for a conference, and I won’t be back until the twenty-somethingth, into “late March” territory. Then, in April, I have a visitor. But the start of April marks my half way point here.

In short, what I’m saying is that time has flown. I know that I’m wishing some of it away, but I’ve already been here for five weeks – 38 days of my 119, 31.9% through my stay.

This realisation has made me reflect a little on what I’ve managed so far: both personally and professionally, and both within the Tri-cities and without. And I have to tell you, as far as seeing America and doing cool things goes – I should step up my game!

At work, I’ve managed to do something, and that’s going to come to some sort of a head later today or tomorrow (more on that later), but I know that there is always more that I can do, more that I want to do.

And outside of work, I have a solid group of friends, who can be both spontaneous and methodical in their plans. It occurs to me that at the end of this month. They will be replaced by other fellows incoming, such as Miriam – who will be here for a month or so, and who I already know through various other conferences. I’ve tried to get around in Richland a bit, having been to the cinema, been shopping, acquired a coffee/tea haunt, I’ve been to work dos and friends places, and friends of friends. But outside of the Tri-cities, well, that’s a whole other story. I’ve only been to Seattle once, for a handful of hours before making the trip home.

And I really have no excuse – Evan often makes the trip down to Portland to visit his parents, and has offered me a seat in the car. I could easily get an airbnb for a weekend.

I’ve not been hiking, even though Badger Mountain looms over the back of the apartments. I’ve not been involved with any community stuff.

So here’s this. I want to throw myself in.


It’s been five weeks now, I have no excuses. I’m settled, I can do things that I want to do.

Like, for instance, McKay’s hosts a pub quiz on Wednesdays, well they would if they had a quiz master. I could do that. I’m sure.

There’s a local theatre group. My family was always involved in theatrics, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t try for a small part.

Jeff said something on the Seattle trip that’s stuck – why do you need friends to do something with you. If its something you wanna do, just do it.

Of course, as ever, the biggest roadblock for me is transport. But I know that I can walk to McKays in half an hour, and the theatre easily in 45. And in a pinch, I can ask to be dropped there on the way home.

Today at work, I’m tackling the comb issue head on. Robert has a candidate coupling mechanism – you see, whilst we were doing the magnetometer studies, we were looking for a symptom, not a cause. The fields were, in the end, and not surprisingly, way too weak to couple into the interferometer. Instead, they indicate a large load on a power supply. It’s just a matter of guessing which one is the most likely cause. So today or tomorrow, Richard, Robert, myself and Vinny are going to power down some computers, power down a chassis, change a thing, power up the chassis and restart the computers. All we’re doing is in essence plugging a thing into a different outlet. But by tomorrow, we will know if it’s worked. After which, job done. onto the next project.

Next week, I’m in Pasadena, attending the LVC – LIGO-Virgo Collaboration conference – at Caltech. I’m meeting up with a bunch of friends from Glasgow there, and I am going to go out and paint the town orange (painting the town red sounds a bit much, after all). I’m giving a 15 minute talk about the comb search on Monday, then attending the rest of the session. Due to budget constraints (because the conference hotel is expensive), I’m sharing a room with Jennie and Daniel, so I’ll never run out of things to do.

For the first portion of this week, Vinny was unwell with a stomach bug, so I plugged away on my stuff alone. Evan left yesterday to get to California early, so it was eerily quiet here.

Hang and I have a new house mate, Stefan, a professor from Syracuse. He arrived late last night. I’m yet to have a conversation with him.

I’ll keep you posted.