Author(s): Janna Levin
The full inside story of the detection of gravitational waves at LIGO, one of the most ambitious feats in scientific history. Travel around the world 100 billion times. A strong gravitational wave will briefly change that distance by less than the thickness of a human hair. We have perhaps less than a few tenths of a second to perform this measurement. And we don't know if this infinitesimal event will come next month, next year or perhaps in thirty years. In 1916 Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves: miniscule ripples in the very fabric of spacetime generated by unfathomably powerful events. If such vibrations could somehow be recorded, we could observe our universe for the first time through sound: the hissing of the Big Bang, the whale-like tunes of collapsing stars, the low tones of merging galaxies, the drumbeat of two black holes collapsing into one. For decades, astrophysicists have searched for a way of doing so...In 2016 a team of hundreds of scientists at work on a billion-dollar experiment made history when they announced the first ever detection of a gravitational wave, confirming Einstein's prediction. This is their story, and the story of the most sensitive scientific instrument ever made: LIGO. Based on complete access to LIGO and the scientists who created it, Black Hole Blues provides a firsthand account of this astonishing achievement: a compelling, intimate portrait of cutting-edge science at its most awe-inspiring and ambitious.
"Gripping ... very, very well written ... I reached the beautiful ending of this book with a little sob of gratitude ... heartbreaking ... brilliant" -- Bryan Appleyard Sunday Times "A beautifully written account of the quest to open the 'gravitational-wave window' onto our universe. As a participant in this wonderful quest, I applaud Janna Levin for capturing so well our vision, our struggles, and the ethos and spirit of our torturous route toward success" -- Kip Thorne, co-founder of LIGO "Riveting. Janna Levin immerses us in the heady world of scientists straining to detect gravitational waves, the faintest whispers in the universe. Keenly observed and lyrically written, her account of this quest will move you" -- Steven Strogatz, author of The Joy of x "If Hunter Thompson had taken a break to get a PhD in physics and then become obsessed with gravitational waves, he might have written a book like this" -- Alan Lightman, author of The Accidental Universe
Janna Levin is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University and Director of Sciences at Pioneer Works, a centre for art and innovation in Brooklyn. She has contributed to the understanding of black holes, the cosmology of extra dimensions and gravitational waves. She was the first scientist-in-residence at the Ruskin School of Fine Art and Drawing at Oxford University with an award from NESTA, and was recently named a Guggenheim fellow. Her previous books are How the Universe Got Its Spots and a novel, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, which won the PEN/Bingham prize. She has also appeared at TED and contributes to numerous radio and television programmes.