Friday, February 12, 2016

How to Make Waves

The goal of this email is to add some gravity to the Shabbat table.
Wishing Lily in SF a happy birthday this week!
Wishing Mom (Chaya bas Yehudis) a continued recovery.

gravity waves1. Get two black holes.

Let one of them be 36 times more massive than our sun.

Let the second one be 29 times the mass of our sun.

2. Put them in a blender and mix.

3. Do the math: the resulting super black hole will be how many times more massive than our sun?

If you guessed 65, you are happily mistaken.

The correct answer: 62.

How could that be?

It turns out when you mix two black holes together, it's impossible to keep it all in the mixing bowl. There is a 5 percent splatter rate.

But every sixth grader knows that not even light can escape from a black hole! How can any energy escape?

It turns out that black hole splatters are more awesome than light. They make space itself ripple, whatever that means.

Not big ripples, but tiny, tiny ripples that are so tiny, to detect them you need a really awesome seismograph.

The one they came up with is a five-mile electric eye. Sort of like the one in elevators to keep people from being crushed by the closing doors, but about a million times more expensive.

And just to be safe, they built two of them, 1,800 miles apart.

But you only heard the headlines of this gravitational-waves story you may have missed the following detail:

To prevent false positives, LIGO has an elaborate system in place to occasionally inject ersatz signals. Only three scientists on the team know the truth in such cases, and in at least one instance their colleagues were prepared to publish the results when they finally revealed the ruse.

Consider the greatness of that system. These scientists are so interested in getting the truth....they know that their fancy machine is very, very good yet imperfect and they know that they are very smart yet imperfect, so they create a system to push themselves towards greater perfection.

That's like you trying to get in shape and having a trainer occasionally tempt you with appropriate distractions. Because whenever you conquer an urge or a distraction, it makes you stronger and greater.

What if the entire universe were set up in such a way that each of us got karmic tests at just the right time to make us stronger and greater?

For the kids at your table: Do you ever feel tested in that way?
For the adults at your table: If it turns out that the philosophical "what if" above were not true, w
ould believing it and living according to it be a net good or net harm?

Shabbat Shalom 

PS - great infographics on LIGO here.

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