StarTalk Live! LIGO and the Black Hole Blues (Part 1)

On Stage at the Count Basie Theatre. From left: Eugene Mirman, Dr. Nergis Mavalvala, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Dr. Janna Levin, Michael Showalter. Credit: Elliot Severn.

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About This Episode

On February 11, 2016 the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory reported that it had discovered gravitational waves, heralding a new field of scientific study. Just a few months later, host Neil deGrasse Tyson and co-host Eugene Mirman took to the stage at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ to explore that discovery with the help of LIGO astrophysicist Dr. Nergis Mavalvala, cosmologist and StarTalk All-Stars host Dr. Janna Levin, and comedian and returning StarTalk Live! guest Michael Showalter. Join us for an evening full of surprises, starting with Neil getting schooled in turn by both Nergis, on the difference between gravity waves and gravitational waves, and Janna, on why, even though, “in space nobody can hear you scream,” you would hear two black holes colliding if you were close enough – just before you were spaghettified, that is. In Part One, you’ll learn exactly how LIGO is able to measure a wave motion 10,000 times smaller than the nucleus of an atom which began 1.3 billion light years away from Earth, and why it’s critical to have two different facilities, one in Louisiana and one in Washington, working in tandem. You’ll also find out why it took the LIGO team half a century and a billion dollars to discover something Einstein predicted nearly 100 years before, how unexpected the discovery was, and why it took them so long to make the announcement, when they’d actually recorded the event on September 14, 2015.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: StarTalk Live! LIGO and the Black Hole Blues (Part 1).

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  • Ross Kennedy-Shaffer

    I was shocked and disappointed to hear an ad for Exxon/Mobil in the podcast for this episode. I am a devoted StarTalk listener and have heard you, Dr. Tyson, and particularly Mr. Nye who spoke just after the advertisement, valiantly defend the scientific consensus on climate change against those who seek to deny the clear science. Chief among those, we know from the LA Times last year, was Exxon/Mobil, even as their internal scientists’ predictions about climate change were being used to plan future oil drilling strategy. That you would accept sponsorship from what I consider the single worst corporation in history, guilty not just of preventing us from addressing climate change at an earlier time but specifically of obfuscating and lying to cover up good science, is appalling. This allows them to burnish their image in the public, and scientifically-minded, eye, and I strongly urge you to reject future ads from them.

    • Matt Miller

      I concur. I was about to make the same comment but saw you beat me to it.

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