Participation of Chinese urged in gravitational wave research
World experts in the detection and research of gravitational waves — a field that will open a new window for study of the universe — have invited Chinese colleagues to participate in their international collaboration.
A collaborative project on second-generation detectors for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory is being worked on by more than 1,000 researchers from over 20 countries. China can play a role in the next generation, which is at the concept stage, leading US scientist Barry Clark Barish says during an exclusive interview with China Daily in Shanghai.
The observatory, known as LIGO, detected gravitational waves for the first time in September 2015.
“We hope one of the detectors of the next generation will be built in China by Chinese scientists,” says Barish, who was attending the Fudan Science and Innovation Forum 2017 in Shanghai.
Barish fostered collaboration between research parties that eventually enabled the detection of gravitational waves.
Barish, together with Rainer Weiss, inventor of the laser interferometer gravitational-wave detector, the foundation for LIGO, and Kip Stephen Thorne, who created programs modeling gravitational waves and developed analysis methods, won the 2017 Fudan-Zhongzhi Science Award. The three United States scientists were selected for the award, founded by Fudan University and Zhongzhi Enterprise Group, for their contributions to the observation and research of gravitational waves. They also received the 2017 Nobel Prize for physics. The current generation of detectors consists of two gigantic, identical interferometers — devices that merge two or more sources of light — in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana. The next generation, with which scientists hope to explore “the science of the whole universe and (solve) the puzzles of where the black holes begin in the early beginning of the universe”, will probably have instruments that are up to 10 times the size of the current ones.
“China should become part of the international study project, which will be dramatically different,” Weiss says.
Several industries in China, including high-level construction and laser research, will be further boosted if the country participates in the research, Barish says.
“Also, LIGO has the world’s biggest high-vacuum system. This can be challenging, as you have to learn how to make it high-vacuum but also cheap enough to make the huge project affordable,” he says.
Barish says there are a few Chinese scientists involved in the science and data analysis in LIGO, but no Chinese have been involved with the actual experimental instrument so far. He says he believes China’s notable breakthroughs in quantum communication and quantum computation, as well as artificial intelligence, will contribute to research into gravitational waves.
“AI can help in running the sensitive instrument and doing data analysis,” Barish adds.
“We analyze data and look at some sources of gravitational waves predetermined by our existing understanding. But AI renders the possibility of looking at the data and finding a very different source from what we are looking for,” he says.
Scientists say that detectable gravitational waves are caused by violent events in the universe — colliding black holes, exploding stars and even the birth of the universe itself. Detecting and analyzing the information carried by gravitational waves allows humans to observe the universe in a way never before possible, and that may usher in cutting-edge research in physics, astronomy and astrophysics, they say.
Barry Clark Barish, US scientist