The day started at Columbia, where many hundreds of people showed up to listen to the announcement from the LIGO project. As expected, they announced the detection of a gravitational inspiral, merger, and ringdown from a pair of 30-ish solar-mass black holes. Incredible. The signal is so clear, you can just see it directly in the data stream. There was lots of great discussion after the press conference, led by Imre Bartos (Columbia), who did a great job of fielding questions. I asked about the large masses (larger than naively expected), and about the cosmological-constraint implications. David Schiminovich asked about the event rate, which looks high (especially because we all believe they have more inspirals in the data stream). Adrian Price-Whelan asked about the the Earth-bound noise sources. And so on. It was a great party, and it is a great accomplishment for a very impressive experiment. And there will be much more, we all very much hope.
In the afternoon, I had the pleasure of serving on the committee of Henrique Moyses (NYU), who successfully defended a PhD on microscopic particles subject to non-conservative forces (and a lot of thermal noise). He has beautiful theoretical explanations for non-trivial experimental results on particles that are thermophoretic (are subject to forces caused by temperature gradients). Interestingly, the thermophoretic mechanisms are not well understood, but that didn't stop Moyses from developing a good predictive theory. Moyses made interesting comments on biological systems; it appears that driven, microscopic, fluctuating systems collectively work together to make our bodies move and work. That's incredible, and shows just how important this kind of work is.