Wednesday, February 10, 2016

“The Stars are Too High” and Gravity Waves

Rumor has it that LIGO is finally going to announce the discovery of gravity waves on Thursday!  The author of “The Stars are Too High”, Agnew Hunter Bahnson Jr. helped to fund one of the first general relativity conferences where the existence of gravity waves was discussed.  In 1957 at the Chapel Hill conference.  Not all the physicists present considered gravity waves to be a possible physical reality.  Details were hashed out outside of conference sessions, and the physicists, while not reaching a consensus, were able to easily share ideas  by the simple expediency of being in the same location.  

All of this was made possible by Bahnson.  Reaching out Bryce DeWitt after reading his Gravitation Research Foundations prize-winning essay, Bahnson proposed that DeWitt head up an academic institute for the study of gravitation.  Bryce was at first inclined to decline, but accepted after speaking with his mentor John Archibald Wheeler, (originator of the term Black Hole), who implored him to “Take the money!”. Shortly thereafter, using his own money, as well as funds from the military and other private industrialists, the Institute for Field Physics was born.  A few years later after Hunter’s untimely death in a plane crash, funding to the Institute would be cut by his family, but in the intervening time, it played host to early gravity wave discussions, as well as some of the work of visiting scholar, Peter Higgs, (yes, THAT, Higgs!)

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