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How ravens caused a LIGO data error



COLUMBUS, Ohio

As the data heaped up, a knock suddenly came
When something gently knocked and knocked on LIGO's door

The source of a mysterious error in the data from a gravitational wave detector was unmasked: rap-tapp-tapping ravens with a thirst for shaved ice. At the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, or LIGO, in the desert of Hanford, Washington, scientists noticed a signal that did not look like gravitational waves, physicist Beverly Berger said on April 16 at a meeting of the American Physical Society

Microphone sensor monitoring the LIGO environment caught the sound of pecking birds on tape in July 201

7, said Berger from the LIGO lab at Caltech. So the crew went to the end of one of the 4-kilometer-long arms of the detector to look for traces of ebony birds at the scene. In fact, Frost, which covered a pipe connected to the cooling system, was treacherously picking pimples from thirsty birds.

A raven, presumably freed from the heat of the desert, was caught red-handed. Changing the structure to prevent ice formation now prevents the ravens from knocking more and more.


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