Archive for October 29th, 2017


October 29, 2017


ON THE WITNESS STAND: Kip Stephen Thorne (for the Defendants)

VINO MOSCATO (Attorney for the Defendants): Professor Thorne, Congratulations on your Nobel Prize. I am just thrilled to be speaking to you, even if under these circumstances. Our jury is very fortunate to be hearing from not one, but two Nobel Laureates. I doubt if any greater scientific authority has gathered under a courtroom roof before. Now, Professor Thorne, do you stand by the five LIGO detections to date?


MOSCATO: And are you apprised of the issues that the so-called LIGO dissidents have raised about these discoveries?

THORNE: In a summary way.

MOSCATO: And what is your assessment of their objections?

THORNE: I did not find any substance in them.

MOSCATO: So would you say that, as far as the validity of the five detections is concerned, the body of objections can be dismissed?

THORNE: I would say that.

MOSCATO: Professor Thorne, who do you think is qualified to review the LIGO instrument?

THORNE: The same people who have reviewed and endorsed LIGO all these years: The members of the National Review Board, the referees of The Physical Review Letters, the selection panels of the many prizegiving bodies, and so on.

MOSCATO: So, throughout its history, LIGO has faced constant and competent vigilance. It has in fact faced the full brunt of the scientific process, with all its safeguards, with all the self-policing. Are all these correct??

THORNE: They are.

MOSCATO: And based on what you have been apprised on the LIGO dissidents, are they qualified to critique LIGO?

THORNE: Look, LIGO is a highly complex scientific program that has evolved over decades. You cannot just come in cold, and start poking holes. That is not a scientific activity.

MOSCATO: Do you think LIGO has any obligation to answer the dissidents?

THORNE: We will always answer criticisms that are properly posed in a proper way. We will answer them at a proper time and in a proper forum. But we simply cannot go answering everything that anyone posts on the Internet. That will be the death of scientific progress.

MOSCATO: Thank you, Professor Thorne. I have no further questions at this time. Your witness, Ms. Veritas.

ASSUMPTA VERITAS (Attorney for the Plaintiffs): Good Morning, Professor Thorne. You are the world’s leading expert on gravitation and gravitational waves. Is that correct?

THORNE: I would say one of the experts.

VERITAS: Thank you. You are also a theoretical physicist and a physics educator. So is it correct to say that you are thoroughly knowledgeable on the general subject of wave behavior?


VERITAS: Is it correct to say that the fundamental aspects of known wave behavior apply to gravitational wave?

THORNE: Up to a point. But we have to consider each specific comparison in detail.

VERITAS: OK, so let’s do such a specific comparison. Suppose an electromagnetic wave is traveling past us. It is linearly polarized. Its wavelength is 10 meters. Suppose I have a linear dipole antenna 1 centimeter long. By orienting this antenna, would I be able to determine the plane of polarization?

THORNE: I would say no. The antenna is too small for this purpose.

VERITAS: Can you elaborate?

THORNE: A wave cannot resolve structures that are smaller than about one-third the wavelength. Let’s look at it this way. You are looking at your antenna in the light of that wave. Then all you will see is just a tiny blur, with no definition. Therefore such an antenna cannot determine the polarization and the direction of travel.

VERITAS: And would this be true for a gravitational wave? Do gravitational waves have polarization?

THORNE: Yes, it would be true. And gravitational waves also have states of polarization. In LIGO, for instance, polarization causes one arm to expand while the other arm contracts, and vice versa. This is why LIGO works in the first place.

VERITAS: Thank you for that explanation of polarization. So we now understand that without polarization there would be no LIGO. Now, Professor Thorne, what is the typical dimension of the LIGO antenna?

THORNE: Four kilometers.

VERITAS: And what is the typical wavelength of the gravitational wave LIGO is trying to detect?

THORNE: It is thousands of kilometers.

VERITAS: So LIGO is much smaller than the wavelength. How can LIGO see the state of polarization?

THORNE: Well .. er .. LIGO accumulates measurements many times, making the effective length of the LIGO arm 1120 kilometers. So, LIGO is not small compared to the wavelength after all.

VERITAS: Are you saying that the fundamental physics limitation of small antennas you have just explained can be defeated by accumulating measurement many times?

THORNE: It is more complicated than that.

VERITAS: OK, let us go back to the electromagnetic wave example. If I use a storage-type oscilloscope to accumulate measurements with that small antenna, will I be able to determine the plane of polarization of the wave?

THORNE: Well… er… I cannot say right offhand.

VERITAS: Then I will say. The answer is a definite no. You cannot defeat physics of waves this way. The same is true for gravitational wave. You cannot use an antenna that is a thousand times smaller than a wavelength to sense polarization. From the point of the incoming wave, your antenna is just an indistinct speck. And since sensing polarization is how LIGO works, it is not a valid instrument. Do you agree with this statement?

THORNE: No. The scientific establishment has accepted the LIGO results.

VERITAS: Is that your entire answer to the physics fallacy at the very core of LIGO I have just pointed out?


VERITAS: Your Honor, I have no further questions.

JUDGE: Redirect, Mr. Moscato?

MOSCATO: Yes, Your Honor. Professor Thorne, is it not true that not only the entire scientific establishment agrees with you, but that the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences agrees with you solidly enough to give you the Nobel Prize? Isn’t it true that scientific consensus is as total on LIGO has it has ever been on anything?

THORNE: It is true.

MOSCATO: No further questions.

JUDGE: The witness is excused.