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LIGO

LIGO COURTROOM DRAMA: Trial Part 7 TRIAL PART 7 ON THE WITNESS STAND: France Cordova (for the Defendants) VINO MOSCATO (Attorney for the Defendants): Dr. Cordova, would you please tell the court who you are and what your connection to LIGO is? FRANCE CORDOVA: I am the Director of National Science Foundation which is an autonomous agency that funds scientific research. The agency has supported LIGO research to detect gravitational wave for decades. Through good times and bad, our support has remained unwavering. MOSCATO: And what is the total amount NSF has invested in LIGO thus far? CORDOVA: It is about a billion dollars. MOSCATO: Was it worth it? If yes, would you tell the court why? CORDOVA: It was worth every cent we spent. LIGO gave us the greatest scientific discovery ever made. An entire new field of astronomy – called gravitational wave astronomy – has opened up. It gives us a new window on the Universe. We today speak already of multimessenger astronomy. MOSCATO: That’s great, Dr. Cordova. And how sure are you that the discovery is solid? CORDOVA: I am absolutely sure. I have said so repeatedly in public and I have promised our continued support. MOSCATO: And just to cover all grounds, has your agency’s Inspector General received any complaints about LIGO? CORDOVA: None that I am aware of. There is no cloud hanging over the LIGO discovery as far as the agency is concerned. It is one of the most vetted scientific results in history. MOSCATO: Thank you, Dr. Cordova. Your witness, Ms. Veritas. ASSUMPTA VERITAS (Attorney for the Plaintiffs): Good Afternoon, Dr. Cordova. You have given us a picture of LIGO within your agency that is one hundred percent worry-free and trouble-free. But that’s not quite the case, is it? 58

CORDOVA: I don’t know what you mean. VERITAS: Well, your IG may not have received any complaints about LIGO. But did you? CORDOVA: Well, actually, a referral to the White House about LIGO was forwarded to us. It had some concerns about LIGO. VERITAS: Do you recall who made that referral? CORDOVA: I believe it was Dr. De who is sitting here in the courtroom. VERITAS: And what did you do about those concerns? CORDOVA: We had actually supported – regardless of that complaint – a study of the role of geomagnetic disturbances on LIGO that was one of Dr. De’s concerns. VERITAS: OK, just so the jury can follow this issue, geomagnetic disturbances are of earthly origin while gravitational waves come from the far reaches of the Universe. The issue is which one of these LIGO is looking at. Looking at gravitational wave would mean a discovery. Looking at geomagnetic disturbance would mean no discovery. Is this correct? CORDOVA: Yes, this is correct. VERITAS: So then, what did that study conclude? CORDOVA: I believe the study concluded that geomagnetic disturbances could mimic gravitational waves with respect to their simultaneous observation at multiple stations as well as the frequency content of the signal observed. It recommended that every LIGO station have the dedicated means of monitoring geomagnetic disturbances at a high level of accuracy. This monitoring is done with devices called magnetometers. VERITAS: I will now read portions from the above study: “Going forward, Advanced LIGO and Advanced Virgo will have low noise magnetometers installed at each observatory site. It will be important to use the magnetometer data to identify coincident magnetic transient events, and veto those times…. Correlated noise will be a real and legitimate concern for gravitational-wave searches using ground based detectors.” In view of these findings, why aren’t the past discoveries suspect? If geomagnetic disturbances will be of such crucial importance in future, why were they not an issue in the past? Why aren’t the discoveries thus far suspect? 59

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