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To Catch a Black Hole from the Bottom of the Pond: A Memoir (Paperback)
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On January, 2016, Dave Reitze the Director of the Laser Interferometric Gravity Wave Observatory (LIGO) called Michael Smith at home...did he want to be included as a co-author on the historic scientific paper that was about to be announced and published in Physical Review Letters; GW151226: "Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger?" OH, MY GOD WE DID IT The gravity wave signals were detected on September 14, 2015 at 09:50:45 UTC-first at Livingston, LA, and 7 milliseconds later at Hanford, WA, within the speed of light travel time between the two sites. The LIGO detectors heard the last one-half second of a primordial song, 1.2 billion years ago This remarkable event provided the first direct proof of Einstein's theory of general relativity, and his prediction of gravity waves emitted from the merger of two black holes, each one approximately 30 times more massive than our own sun. This memoir is about a seventeen-year odyssey that began in 1996, when Michael Smith joined the Laser Interferometer Gravity Wave Observatory (LIGO) design team at Caltech. This book will take you through the inner workings of a complex scientific development project funded by the National Science Foundation-seen through his struggles, tribulations, and joys as he prevailed in the emotional and technical challenges of creating something never undertaken before. He was one of those thousand little turtles at the bottom of the pond who designed and built the LIGO detectors at the two sites-Livingston, LA, and Hanford, WA, and who held up the three luminaries-Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne, and Barry Barish-on their backs atop the LIGO pyramid, rising higher than the sun and basking in the glory of their Nobel Prize 2017 in Physics...and unlike the Dr. Seuss story, "Yertle the Turtle," he didn't burp This is also the story of an ongoing love affair with Frances Mayes' Tuscany, Brunello di Montalcino wine, and the lovely Rainbow Face who would finally marry Michael.
About the Author
Michael Smith received his PhD in 1965 from Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, Ohio, where Michelson and Morley had performed their famous laser interferometer experiment proving that the speed of light was constant. He developed argon ion and CO2 lasers at Hughes Research Labs, started a laser company with a patented line of argon laser photocoagulators for eye surgery, had a five-year stint as head of electrooptical R&D for Singer Librascope aerospace company, worked on laser gyros for Litton Guidance and Control, invented a unique microscope for inspecting the falling tiles of the Rockwell Space Shuttle, developed an Advanced Air Traffic Control console for Gould Aerospace; and in between, patented CO2 laser eye surgery instruments and traffic control and warning systems, as well as designed and manufactured electronic control and wiring systems for the stretch-limousine industry. Finally, he headed the physics program at a small liberal arts university, where after six years he was forced to resign because he was determined to make the kids learn physics. That last failed career as a physics professor landed him this marvelous job at LIGO, where he worked for seventeen years as a member of the engineering design staff, responsible for Auxiliary Optical Systems for Advanced LIGO. Michael Smith is the holder of 18 patents in the fields of electrooptics and electronic systems. He received the following awards during his career: Pi Tau Sigma, Mechanical Engineering Honor Society Sigma Xi, Scientific Research Honor Society Who's Who in Science and Engineering, Who's Who in the West, Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, and Outstanding People of the 20th Century Gruber Foundation 2016 Cosmology Prize, honoring educational excellence in cosmology and related fields, and recognizing groundbreaking work that provides new models that inspire and enable fundamental shifts in knowledge and culture. Optical Society of America (OSA) 2016 Paul F. Forman Team Engineering Excellence Award, for innovative engineering and creating the most sensitive measurement instrument ever built, leading to the first direct detection of gravitational waves. 2016 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, for the observation of gravitational waves, opening new horizons in astronomy and physics.