fiber robots; gravitational waves

At lunch, Mike Blanton (NYU) and I discussed operational matters for SDSS-V. One thing we discussed was how to have different cadences for different types of stars, when we have a huge field of view and finite target densities for each stellar type. His view is that we should re-formulate the question in terms of sky patches, and set cadences for particular sky patches, and then observe the stars inside those patches as makes sense given the patch cadences. We also asked how to formulate this problem in terms of a scalar objective function or cost function, which is essential if we are going to let loose with optimizers.

The other thing we talked about is positioning a dense set of fibers. There are configurational constraints on the path that the fiber robots can take if they are going to avoid collisions and conflicts. Can we resolve these? And what engineering literature do we look to for the best or standard solutions to problems of this type. I am sure there is a huge literature, because it connects to all sorts of things like milling machines and warehousing and things like that. But I need keywords. I promised to deliver some to the SDSS-V Collaboration.

At the end of the day, Vicky Kalogera (Northwestern) gave a great talk about gravitational wave observing. Her group has been essential in converting the theory of gravitational-wave sources into practical schemes for performing principled probabilistic inferences on the data. She said, in her talk, that in the process she has become an observer, but she only observes in the gravitational-wave sector! And it is really true: She referred consistently in her talk to astronomers as “electromagnetic observers”. I love that! But really, the LIGO results are incredible, and Kalogera deserves a lot of credit for them.

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