Journal article

An interactive gravitational-wave detector model for museums and fairs

SJ Cooper, AC Green, HR Middleton, CPL Berry, R Buscicchio, E Butler, CJ Collins, C Gettings, D Hoyland, AW Jones, JH Lindon, I Romero-Shaw, SP Stevenson, EP Takeva, S Vinciguerra, A Vecchio, CM Mow-Lowry, A Freise



In 2015, the first observation of gravitational waves marked a breakthrough in astrophysics and in technological research and development. The discovery of a gravitational-wave signal from the collision of two black holes, a billion light-years away, received considerable interest from the media and public. We describe the development of a purpose-built exhibit explaining this new area of research to a general audience. The core element of the exhibit is a working Michelson interferometer: a scaled-down version of the key technology used in gravitational-wave detectors. The Michelson interferometer is integrated into a hands-on exhibit, which allows for user interaction and simulated gravita..

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University of Melbourne Researchers


Awarded by Science and Technology Facilities Council Small Award

Awarded by STFC

Awarded by NSF

Awarded by Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav)

Funding Acknowledgements

This project was funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council Small Award (Project No. ST/N005767/1) and the Royal Astronomical Society Public Engagement Grant (2015). The authors are grateful to both the Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum and The Royal Society for their support and advice for the exhibit development and installation. The exhibit videos were produced in collaboration with the communications department of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Birmingham. The authors express their deep gratitude to all those who have helped with this project since its inception, in particular: Steve Brookes and all those in the University of Birmingham mechanical workshop; John Bryant and David Stops for additional technical support; Alejandro Vigna Gomez for his contributions to the exhibit videos; Siyuan Chen and Carl-Johan Haster for useful discussions for the exhibit development, and Julia Dancu and Luke Scantlebury-Smead for conducting the Thinktank survey. The authors thank Laura Trouille and Joey Shapiro Key for their comments on this manuscript; the LIGO Education and Public Outreach working group for their support and for use of multimedia resources, and Sarah Cole, Kris Vogt Veggeberg, and Jayatri Das for useful recommendations for literature on exhibit design. The authors are grateful to the anonymous referees for their feedback. This work was also supported by STFC Grant ST/N000633/1 and the University of Birmingham. C.P.L.B. is supported by the CIERA Board of Visitors Research Professorship, and NSF Award PHY 1912648. This research is supported by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) (Project No. CE170100004). A.C.G. is supported by NSF Awards PHY 1806461 and PHY 2012021. This work has been assigned LIGO Document No. P2000036.