Par­tic­i­pa­tion of Chi­nese urged in grav­i­ta­tional wave re­search

China Daily European Weekly - - China News - By ZHOU WENT­ING zhouwent­[email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

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

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