Aspen Winter Conference

on gravitational waves and their detection

Syd Meshkov
Caltech - LIGO

The 1997 Aspen Winter Conference on Gravitational Waves and their Detection (the third in this series) took place in Aspen, CO, January 26 to February 1st, 1997. It was originally planned to stress three main areas, Advanced Detector Research and Development, Collaboration Formation for Advanced Detectors, and the LIGO Research Community. By the time that the meeting finished, an air of excitement and exuberence prevailed. New and exciting ideas, both experimental and theoretical had been introduced, and a number of collaborative efforts had been organized. In addition, issues of a political and organizational nature were raised and discussed openly.

The meeting was held under the auspices of the Aspen Center for Physics. The morning sessions were held in the Flug Forum, a beautiful auditorium in the new building of the Physics Center. The evening sessions were held in the Conference Center of the Aspen Institute of Humanistic Studies. Most of the participants were comfortably housed in the nicely appointed apartments of the Institute. There were 61 participants, including representatives of all existing and planned interferometers and bars.

Reports on the status of Virgo, GEO 600, LIGO , ACIGA, TAMA 300, and Bar Detectors by Giazotto, Hough, Shoemaker, Munch, Barton and Hamilton framed the conference.

Because the time has come for serious discussion of how to best organize the physics effort that will operate and do research with LIGO, several sessions were devoted to gathering the views of the participants, working towards a consensus, and taking early steps in the formation of the requisite Collaboration. Discussions of how to initiate formation of the LIGO Collaboration started early in the Conference in a session on Monday night, following introductory remarks by Gary Sanders. These discussions continued throughout the Conference, both formally and informally. They were addressed in the LIGO Research Community formal session, where Dave Berley presented the NSF views of LIGO structure, management, and goals. A recapitulation of the discussions was given in the final session by Finn and Saulson.

With construction of the LIGO Observatories well underway, and following the recommendations of the NSF McDaniel Report, the 1997 Conference focused on Research and Development for the next generation of detectors. Imaginative ideas for advanced interferometry, suspensions and seismic isolation, lasers, and optics were presented and freely discussed in both formal presentations and in many informal meetings. The GEO, JILA, Stanford and Virgo groups participated actively in these discussions.

In a theoretical vein, Jim Wilson and Grant Mathews presented work on General Relativistic Numerical Hydrodynamics for Neutron Star Binaries which questions the utility of the templates which are currently being implemented for analyzing neutron star binaries. Naturally, this engendered much discussion, and was addressed in Alan Wiseman's presentation. Bruce Allen and Sam Finn engaged in a colloquy on how to analyze data, and the bar people described how they extract signals from their data.

Tuck Stebbins reported on a possible speeded up LISA system, to be launched in the year 2004, instead of in 2015, that uses NASA vehicles together with existing LISA technology. Choptuik showed where the Grand Challenge stands in its final year of funding.

The conference concluded with summaries by Finn and Saulson. The general feeling was that communications had been greatly enhanced between groups with different agendas. This was especially so in the "neutral" location of beautiful Aspen. The formation of the LIGO collaboration has been greatly facilitated. One important outcome of the conference was the formation of two working groups, one on high power laser R&D, the other on suspensions and seismic isolation. Exciting new physics questions have been raised, and the imaginative proposals for detection techniques stimulated everyone.

As for the past two conferences, a volume of all of the transparencies shown at the conference will be distributed to each participant shortly after the conference.

Jorge Pullin
Tue Feb 4 22:28:54 EST 1997