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Everyday science

Waves of soup, spying on gravity and touring the solar system

19 Feb 2016 Hamish Johnston

By Hamish Johnston

Nathan Myhrvold knows a lot about gravity (he worked with Stephen Hawking) and a lot about food (he wrote Modernist Cuisine) so it’s not really surprising that he has designed a soup bowl inspired by the collision of two black holes. Created in 2014, the bowl was made to hold two different types of soup in swirls of space–time. Now that the LIGO observatory has spotted a gravitational wave from the collision of two such black holes, I’m guessing sales of the bowl will be out of this world.

Unsurprisingly, Myhrvold is not the only one who has jumped on the LIGO bandwagon. The folks at the citizen science outfit Zooniverse have announced a new project called Gravity Spy, whereby members of the public will help classify noisy LIGO data in the search for gravitational waves.

This brings up an interesting question. If the public play an important role in future discoveries at LIGO, will they be kept informed of how the research is progressing? Or, as happened last week, will the process be done under a veil of secrecy with the public relying on rumours to know how their work is being used by the LIGO collaboration?

If staring at noisy numbers is not your cup of tea, NASA has released a series of lovely space tourism posters for destinations in the solar system and beyond. Done in the graphical style of the mid-20th century, my favourite poster promotes the geyser-strewn landscape of Saturn’s moon Enceladus and shows a couple and their dog floating in some sort of pod. Whether space tourists will bring their pets along on a grand tour of the solar system remains to be seen.


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