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.


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