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Amaldi Conference a Huge Success

Amaldi Conference a Huge Success

- Contributed by Sydney Meshkov

The Amaldi Conference Poster. Gravitational-Wave scientists, 226 of them, gathered at Caltech to attend the Third Edoardo Amaldi Conference on Gravitational Waves, July 12 - 16, 1999. Almost half of these scientists where from overseas, with the largest number, 40, coming from Italy. They were presented with a variety of stimuli, ranging from visual to gustatory to scientific, and in all cases their response was enthusiastic.

The Amaldi Conference was designated by the recently formed Gravitational-Wave International Committee (GWIC) as the cornerstone conference for the Gravitational Wave Detection community, and is the first in a new series. The conference events started on Sunday evening, July 11, with a welcoming reception and registration at the Athenaeum Rathskellar. Then, to start the conference rolling on Monday morning, introductions and welcomes were offered by LIGO Director Barry Barish and Caltech President David Baltimore. After which Ugo Amaldi, Edoardo Amaldi's son and himself a noted high energy experimentalist, presented an insightful and loving portrait of his father. Amaldi's talk was followed by plenary talks on sources, interferometers and bar antennae by Sterl Phinney, Albrecht Ruediger and Eugenio Coccia, respectively. These set the stage for many of the talks that followed later in the conference.

The Conference was organized so that there were three purely plenary sessions. All of the rest were mixtures of plenary talks chosen by the session conveners, followed by a number of talks chosen, again by the conveners, from abstracts submitted to the conference.

The afternoon session of the first day was very full, exquisitely organized by Kip Thorne. The participants were then only too happy to partake of a reception in Dabney Gardens. Tuesday was a very busy dawn to dusk day, with plenary sessions reporting on the status of the world-wide collection of interferometers, as well as four overviews of Suspensions, Noise, Interferometer Configurations, and Quantum Limits. There was even time for a workshop on interferometer Configurations convened by Peter Fritschel and David McClelland, before a very popular Poster Session in Dabney Lounge. Even though Pasadena was baking beneath a heat wave, the session was well attended. An added inducement was the prospect of refreshments and serious discussion.

Wednesday was another action packed day. It started with a workshop on Lasers and Optics organized by Eric Gustafson and Walter Winkler. The afternoon was time for a trip to the Getty Museum. We lucked out, because the weather was beautiful and there was no traffic getting into the Getty. We weren't done for the day though, because Kip Thorne gave a beautiful Public Lecture at the Beckman Auditorium later that evening, entitled, "Probing Black Holes and the Dark Side of the Universe with Black Holes". Nine hundred forty three fortunate listeners attended and kept Kip answering questions far into the night.

A Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) Workshop organized by Karsten Danzmann and Tuck Stebbins, and a Bar Antennae Workshop organized by Massimo Cerdonio and William Hamilton, presented the latest work in these fields. These were followed by the Conference Reception and Banquet, the last major social event of the Conference, held in the Athenaeum. Speeches were kept to a minimum: I spoke briefly, paying tribute for the help that I received from Valeda Mercier and Veronica Kondrashov, and also thanking Sam Bench for keeping participants in e-mail contact with the rest of the world. I wish to reiterate these thanks. Eugenio Coccia made a few comments and Joe Kovalik revealed great talent as a vocalist.

The last day of the conference was packed with beautiful work that was exposited in two workshops. The first, on Suspensions and Thermal Noise, was organized by Gabriela Gonzalez, Jim Hough and Kazuaki Kuroda. The closing session was a workshop on Signal Processing And Data Analysis organized by Bruce Allen and Stefano Vitale. The Conference closed with a tour de force review by Jim Hough.

The success of the Amaldi Conference was crucially dependent on the financial support that we received from the Caltech Department of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy. In addition, the Conference received support from the National Science Foundation, the Italian National Institute for Research in Nuclear and Subnuclear Physics (INFN), Lightwave Electronics Corporation, and the Parsons Corporation. Warm appreciation is also due to Barbara Kratochwill of Caltech for her yeoman service in operating the Amaldi Conference web page.

The impact of the Third Edoardo Amaldi won't be known for some time. However, whenever you get 226 eager and interested scientists together, interacting at breakfast, lunch, dinner and social occasions, good things are sure to follow.