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LIGO Livingston Observatory News

New Livingston Auditorium Hosts Spring LSC
LLO Enjoys Visit from Professor Israel Quiros
Third Annual Tree-planting in Livingston

New Livingston Auditorium Hosts Spring LSC

- Contributed by Mark Coles

The LIGO Livingston Observatory (LLO) played host to the Spring 2002 LIGO Science Collaboration meeting, held March 20-23. In conjunction with this event, a workshop was organized by Kip Thorne and Jorge Pullin as a forum to foster a closer working relationship between the gravitational wave source simulation community and the experimental gravitational wave projects, such as LIGO and LISA.

Approximately 210 scientists from North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia attended this joint series of meetings. Also present were program officers from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). To see transparencies of the presentations and gain further information about the LIGO Science Collaboration, click here.

The LSC Assembly.

The new auditorium and associated space at LLO, under completion since January 2001, were available just in time for the gathering. We thank Brunt Construction Company for readying the building and American Electronics for installing the audio and video electronics.

The agenda for the meeting on the first day included detailed discussion of data taken during the recent E7 engineering run (see last month's LIGO Newsletter for in-depth coverage of the E7 run). That afternoon and evening, the discussion of gravitational wave sources began, with talks continuing until 11:30 PM! A joint plenary session was held the following day that included overview talks on the status of LIGO, an update on LISA, and a programmatic view from inside the NSF of gravitational wave related activities.

Typical Louisiana cuisine, as seen below, was the focus of that evening's activity, featuring crawfish, catfish, pistolettes, boudin, and bread pudding.

Good eating at the LSC!

We thank Leger's Catering of Baton Rouge for their excellent service during the meeting. We would also like to thank Dennis Woltering and WWL-TV, New Orleans, for their media coverage of this important event.

LLO Enjoys Visit from Professor Israel Quiros

- Contributed by Mark Coles

Professor Israel Quiros of the Las Villas Central University in Santa Clara, Cuba, visited LIGO on March 27 to give a talk on "Quintessence and Gravitational Waves." One of the most exciting recent discoveries in cosmology is the existence of dark energy or "quintessence." This newly-discovered feature is the source of about two-thirds of the energy density of the universe. A promising candidate responsible for this is a dynamical scalar field slowly rolling down its potential. Prof. Quiros addressed some recent models of the universe that include quintessence, and considered its possibility to describe gravitational waves as signatures of the early universe.

Quiros's research mainly involves alternative theories of gravity, Kaluza-Klein gravity, and branes and astrophysics (dark energy, quintessence models). His graduate education was at Moscow State University (1983-1990) as a nuclear theorist but since 1995 he has worked in field theory. He taught nuclear physics at the Institute for Nuclear Science and Technology in Havana, and since 1993 he has been at Las Villas Central University in Santa Clara, Cuba.

Professor Quiros gave a most interesting talk, and toured the LIGO facility. His visit was also an opportunity for us to learn about the scientific research environment in Cuba.

Professor Carl Brans of Loyola University of New Orleans was responsible for arranging the visit of Prof. Quiros to LIGO. Prof. Brans's name is familiar to many as the author, along with Robert Dicke, of an alternative formulation of general relativity in which the gravitational "constant" is a function of some scalar field. This scalar-tensor theory of gravitation was the focus of Carl's graduate work under Dicke at Princeton. LIGO's own Prof. Rai Weiss was a post-doctoral researcher in Dicke's group during these years.

Rai Weiss and Carl Brans.

Above: Professors Rai Weiss and Carl Brans discuss the fine points of relativity.

Professor Quiros's visit to LIGO, accompanied by Carl Brans, was an opportunity for a reunion after many years. In the photo above, Rai Weiss (at left) and Carl Brans (right) are seen discoursing on the well-known relativistic phenomenon that causes each of them, as observed within their own reference frame, to remain remarkably young while observing that the other person has aged considerably.

Third Annual Tree-planting in Livingston

- Contributed by Mark Coles

Fresh Cypresses at LLO.

For a third consecutive year, the LIGO Livingston Observatory (LLO) has participated in a reforestation program sponsored by the Louisiana Department of Forestry. This program makes it possible for LLO to obtain cypress seedlings to be planted for erosion control.

The bald cypress, which is native to Louisiana, is a relative of the California coastal redwood. As it grows, it develops an extensive root structure along the surface which is excellent for retaining soil. Old growth cypress were once found throughout southern Louisiana, but due to extensive commercial logging at the end of the nineteenth century, only a few old growth areas remain. Because the cypress wood, like redwood, is resistant to rot and insect infestation, the wood was highly valued for construction. Louisiana is actively pursuing a reforestation program to reestablish this species in the state.

This year we were assisted by Boy Scout, Girl Scout, and Cub Scout troops (along with a few parents) from the Baton Rouge, Livingston, and Mandeville/Covington areas. Altogether, we planted 1000 cypress seedlings in the wet and swampy areas near the water courses along the south arm. The silty soil in the sloping areas adjacent to the water is particularly susceptible to erosion. As the cypress seedlings begin to grow and extend their shallow root structure, they should provide us long-lasting protection as well as adding some natural beauty to the Livingston site. Because cypress trees "love to get their feet wet," they are an ideal species of tree for planting in areas that are wet and swampy.

Below: Scouts at work and play in planting new cypresses at LLO.

Two scouts hard at work. Preparing the grounds.
Scouts on the move. An L for LIGO Livingston!
Turning the soil. Working up an appetite.

After the planting was finished, everyone was rewarded with hot dogs and ice cream. Thanks to one and all for their participation!

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