Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Excerpting Adam Serwer's Outstanding Atlantic Piece -OR- Over the Ethno-Nationalist Waterfall

This entry excerpts a few parts of Adam Serwer's extended, outstanding piece in The Atlantic (link embedded): The Nationalist's Delusion. I learned of it from the inestimable Charlie Pierce in this piece.

Here are some excerpts (without the embedded links):

One measure of the allure of Trump's white identity politics is the extent to which it has overridden other concerns as his administration has faltered. The president’s supporters have stood by him even as he has evinced every quality they described as a deal breaker under Obama.

Conservatives attacked Obama's lack of faith; Trump is a thrice-married libertine who has never asked God for forgiveness. They accused Obama of being under malign foreign influence; Trump eagerly accepted the aid of a foreign adversary during the election. They accused Obama of genuflecting before Russian President Vladimir Putin; Trump has refused to even criticize Putin publicly. They attacked Obama for his ties to Tony Rezko, the crooked real-estate agent; Trump's ties to organized crime are too numerous to name.

Conservatives said Obama was lazy; Trump "gets bored and likes to watch TV." They said Obama’s golfing was excessive; as of August Trump had spent nearly a fifth of his presidency golfing. They attributed Obama's intellectual prowess to his teleprompter; Trump seems unable to describe the basics of any of his own policies. They said Obama was a self-obsessed egomaniac; Trump is unable to broach topics of public concern without boasting.

Conservatives said Obama quietly used the power of the state to attack his enemies; Trump has publicly attempted to use the power of the state to attack his enemies. Republicans said Obama was racially divisive; Trump has called Nazis "very fine people." Conservatives portrayed Obama as a vapid celebrity; Trump is a vapid celebrity. There is virtually no personality defect that conservatives accused Obama of possessing that Trump himself does not actually possess. This, not some uncanny oracular talent, is the reason Trump’s years-old tweets channeling conservative anger at Obama apply so perfectly to his own present conduct.

Trump's great political insight was that Obama’s time in office inflicted a profound psychological wound upon many white Americans, one that he could remedy by adopting the false narrative that placed the first black president outside the bounds of American citizenship.

He intuited that Obama's presence in the White House decreased the value of what W. E. B. Du Bois described as the "psychological wage" of whiteness across all classes of white Americans, and that the path to their hearts lay in invoking a bygone past when this affront had not taken place, and could not take place.

That the legacy of the first black president could be erased by a birther, that the woman who could have been the first female president was foiled by a man who confessed to sexual assault on tape -- these were not drawbacks to Trump’s candidacy, but central to understanding how he would wield power, and on whose behalf.

Americans act with the understanding that Trump’s nationalism promises to restore traditional boundaries of race, gender, and sexuality. The nature of that same nationalism is to deny its essence, the better to salve the conscience and spare the soul...

Overall, poor and working-class Americans did not support Trump; it was white Americans on all levels of the income spectrum who secured his victory. Clinton was only competitive with Trump among white people making more than $100,000, but the fact that their shares of the vote was nearly identical drives the point home:

Economic suffering alone does not explain the rise of Trump. Nor does the Calamity Thesis explain why comparably situated black Americans, who are considerably more vulnerable than their white counterparts, remained so immune to Trump’s appeal. The answer cannot be that black Americans were suffering less than the white working class or the poor, but that Trump’s solutions did not appeal to people of color because they were premised on a national vision that excluded them as full citizens...

Trumpism emerged from a haze of delusion, denial, pride, and cruelty -- not as a historical anomaly, but as a profoundly American phenomenon. This explains both how tens of millions of white Americans could pull the lever for a candidate running on a racist platform and justify doing so, and why a predominantly white political class would search so desperately for an alternative explanation for what it had just seen. To acknowledge the centrality of racial inequality to American democracy is to question its legitimacy -- so it must be denied.

I don't mean to suggest that Trump's nationalism is impervious to politics. It is not invincible. Its earlier iterations have been defeated before, and can be defeated now. Abraham Lincoln began the Civil War believing that former slaves would have to be transported to West Africa. Lyndon Johnson began his political career as a segregationist.

Both came to realize that the question of black rights in America is not mere identity politics -- not a peripheral matter, but the central, existential question of the republic.

Nothing is inevitable, people can change. No one is irredeemable. But recognition precedes enlightenment. Nevertheless, a majority of white voters backed a candidate who assured them that they will never have to share this country with people of color as equals. That is the reality that all Americans will have to deal with, and one that most of the country has yet to confront.

Yet at its core, white nationalism has and always will be a hustle, a con, a fraud that cannot deliver the broad-based prosperity it promises, not even to most white people. Perhaps the most persuasive argument against Trumpist nationalism is not one its opponents can make in a way that his supporters will believe. But the failure of Trump's promises to white America may yet show that both the fruit and the tree are poison.


View along Gambrills Road, Gambrills, Md., 3:11PM November 22, 2017.


As a brief update, I'm here at my mom's place in Glen Burnie tonight for the Thanksgiving holiday and until Saturday. I intend to post another entry tomorrow after our Thanksgiving dinner at the Severna Park American Legion. I'm in the process of preparing that 3-month delayed South Carolina solar eclipse vacation.

So it turns out that my mom's cable company (Broadstripe) carries MeTV (Baltimore), and I'm presently watching Perry Mason while composing this.

Actually, by the time I posted the finalized version of this entry (at 1:27AM), The Twilight Zone rerun was aired. The episode was that really freaky one "The Eye of the Beholder." Donna Douglas (of Beverly Hillbillies fame) and Edson Stroll are the "hideous" attractive couple in the end. (That's quite a nice physique Edson had in the episode (see above picture).

Speaking of hideous ...

That face could (does) give anyone with a decent, compassionate soul nightmares.

OK, that's all for now. I need to go to bed.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Day Before the Day Before Thanksgiving Brief Update Interspersed with Pictures from This Past Sunday's Rock Creek Park Walk

Tall trees in Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C., 4:21PM November 19, 2017.

On Sunday, my good friend Chester and I met at the Silver Spring Metro and -- after entering a finger of Rock Creek Park at the edge of the D.C. neighborhood called North Portal Estates (which stretches up to the very apex of the District at the North Cornerstone) -- proceeded to take an 8 to 9 mile walk into and through forested trails of Rock Creek Park.

A large house at the corner of N. Spruce and N. Portal Drives NW, Washington, D.C., 3:11PM November 19, 2017.

This is in the floral or "fourth" alphabet of D.C. -- with the street names running up to the northernmost one in the District of Columbia, Verbena Street.


We eventually emerged by dusk at Peirce Mill and thence walking up Tilden Street to Connecticut Avenue and back to Woodley Park.

I actually continued back home via Adams-Morgan -- through which I had not traversed in the past two years and marveled at how many businesses had changed, not to mention how much better the exterior of that Marie H. Reed Recreation Center looked.

A telephone pole and mostly bare tree branches seen against a chilly blue sky, 7900 block of W. Beach Drive NW, Washington, D.C., 3:16PM November 19, 2017.

The day was a lovely November one -- cool, variably cloudy with a soft stratocumulus overcast that mostly cleared by sunset as a chilly northwesterly breeze kicked up. (It had been post-cold frontal gusty earlier in the day but the winds slackened -- only to pick back up again, perhaps as a minor reinforcing boundary pushed through.)  

The photos in this entry were taken on that walk.

A large dead root of a very dead tree in Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C., 3:31PM November 19, 2017.


Oh, yes, we also had lunch at Mamma Lucia's in Silver Spring -- where I absurdly overspent on a dumb lunch -- and later along Connecticut Avenue, stopped at a Thai restaurant in Cleveland Park and then at Woodley Café for a drink at the bar.

Mamma Lucia's is where for years Gasy the Hangry Chipmungorilla used to get a weekly free meal from a very strange, very closeted, very wealthy man (sometimes in a group). Gasy being Gasy, he usually got it to go because he had so other better offers to which to attend.

Anyway, Chester and I parted around 8PM at Connecticut Ave and Calvert Road -- he to the Metro and I back home, but stopped at my neighbor Fred's place where he, Doug, and I watched on Netflix two hilarious episodes of 'Allo 'Allo!

A man rides a bike with a small child in a backseat at the entrance to Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C., 3:37PM November 19, 2017.

(I think this is on or right by the DC-Maryland line.)


As for an actual entry ...

I had intended to post an entry last night -- a meaningful, multiple-part entry, that is -- but once I got home from the gym, and after making dinner and a bevy of text messages with Chris T. and my high school classmate Lynda (whom I am meeting on Friday when in Glen Burnie for the Thanksgiving holiday), followed by watching Perry Mason and the other late night MeTV shows, I just couldn't do it.

(I got really pissed because my stupid digital antenna-based reception went out right at the climatic courtroom scene of the episode -- probably because of the interference from a stupid MPD helicopter circling overhead chasing some shitty street criminal. I hate that that's how this particular damn Universe works.)

Chester along a wooded trail in Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C., 3:39PM November 19, 2017.


Besides, most of the time I just want to fume in an entry about whatever horrid social or ecological atrocity that the Vulgar Talking Yam and his gangster kleptocracy -- married to today's cultic "ethnonationalist" GOP are is committing that it gets very distracting for me. (At least we know that the fundie fascists want a human being like Roy Moore to represent their values.) 

Often it entails posting excerpts of pieces I've read by Charlie Pierce, Jonathan Chait, Paul Krugman, Matthew Yglesias, David Roberts, et al., and that requires multiple images to break up the text.

Typically, it's all too much on any given day (late night), though.

Mostly (well, partially) bare trees in Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C., 3:43PM November 19, 2017.


My main point is that I simply cannot begin at 1AM what invariably will be some big, huge entry -- and not get to bed until 330AM. I mean, I can't do that and then get to work at a reasonable hour (even with my more flexible schedule).

Yours truly along a forested trail in Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C., 3:46PM November 19, 2017.

This was a big-ass tulip popular tree -- a single tree with no less than five giant trunks segments.

Speaking of big-ass, I had to seriously crop this image because the original featured me all the way down and my posterior looked like one of those half-spherical above-counter bathroom sink bowls.

Or maybe it's more like one of those colorful gazing balls with a stand you see in the yards of certain kinds of people.


Another picture of Chester along a trail in Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C., 3:48PM November 19, 2017.

Chester, by the way, recently completed one of his extended Appalachian hikes anywhere between West Virginia and Vermont. This one was a roughly 10-day, 300-mile one that took him to the very Canadian border before Amtrak-training back.


Speaking of work, I'm there right now (the only one here) but leaving shortly. For tomorrow -- the day before Thanksgiving -- I'm not even coming in to the office. I'm going directly to Union Station early afternoon and take a MARC up to suburban Maryland to meet my mom. My plan is to stay there until Saturday early afternoon and then return to D.C. (going to the gym Saturday late afternoon / early evening).

A large house along Oregon Avenue at Moreland Place NW, Washington, D.C., 4:39PM November 19, 2017.


My plan is go post a few entries while there since I am taking my laptop with me. For tonight, I'll probably stop at Trade and/or No. 9. I'm actually flat broke until I get paid -- which should be tomorrow rather than Friday, owing to a pay schedule change due to the Thanksgiving holiday. I am so broke because of my Chicago trip a couple weeks ago combined with a period when I had to pay my rent (not to mention I chronically overspend).

Last picture of the day: Yours truly in the Northumberland elevator going to Fred and Doug's place, 8:16PM November 19, 2017.


However, I have a bit of credit card availability. (I postponed a number of payments including two months of student loans, cellphone, and internet, all of which I need to make as soon as I get paid as they are all breathing down my neck (and up my butt). Then there are charges related to that upper endoscopy procedure I had in early October.)

OK, I'm going to sign off for now. My next planned entry will be tomorrow night.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Jukebox Saturday Night for Nov. 18th, 2017: The Midnight, I Can't Wait, and Kung Fu Fighting Edition -OR- CHOPSOCKY!

Let's start with a really nice ballad ...

"Midnight" by Tony Guerrero from his album Now & Then (1995)

I featured another song by Tony Guerrero from the same album back in this February 2017 JBSN edition.

Mr. Guerrero has had a prolific career. According to his website biography, he has appeared on about 200 albums either on the production side as producer, composer, or arranger or as a musician performing on either trumpet, flugelhorn, piano, and guitar, among other instruments.


Next up, an interesting piece from the mid-1980s ...

"I Can't Wait" by Nu Shooz from the duo's album Poolside (1986)

The song actually was first recorded in late 1984 and was featured on the band's 1985 album Tha's Right but this is a remixed version that was featured on Poolside the next year.


And let's end with something old school disco fun ...

"Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas from his album Kung Fu Fighting and Other Great Love Songs (1974)

Actually, the song was originally released as a single that year. As described by the Keeper of All Knowledge, the song was released at "the cusp of a chopsocky film craze and rose to the top of the British, Australian and American charts."

Chopsocky! Now there's a great word.

I actually found this wonderful video version of "Kung Fu Fighting" featuring some of those iconic Bruce Lee movie fighting scenes:


OK, that's all for now. Please see my previous entry for an update.


Saturday Evening Post for November 18th, 2017: Finally Fully Fall

**This entry was posted November 18, 2017.**

Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center along the C&O Canal, Potomac, Md., November 12, 2017; photo by Flickr user Julie B and reposted in this CWG entry.


Saturday night.

I'm home watching the MeTV aired Super Sci-Fi Saturday Night lineup that then morphs into the after midnight Red Eye Sci-Fi lineup.

The Svengoolie-hosted monster movie was the classic horror comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. In addition to Abbott and Costello, it starred Lon Chaney, Jr., Bela Lugosi, and Glenn Strange.

Star Trek: TOS is on at 11PM and then Battlestar Galactica (the 1978 series) at midnight followed by two back-to-back episodes of The Outer Limits and then Lost in Space, although I'm not sure I'll stay up that late.

The Star Trek: TOS episode is the outstanding one "Mirror, Mirror."

While in Chicago, Chris explained to me that the 1978 series contained a lot of Mormon eschatological themes.

Update: Correction: MeTV is now showing the Galactica 1980 series.

NWS WPC weather map for the Lower 48 valid 06Z November 19, 2017.


NECONUS sector composite radar mosaic looped 0208 to 0318UTC November 19, 2017


It is a windy, rather mild mid-November night ahead of a strong frontal passage. There are some showers across the region but nothing widespread. There is a bit more rain back across the Appalachians with the front itself back over the Ohio River valley.

NWS high resolution weather map for a portion of the eastern U.S. valid 0Z November 19, 2017.


Sterling (LWX) county warning area (CWA) weather advisories updated 10:50PM EST November 18, 2017.


The 11PM temperature at KDCA and KBWI is 62F while KIAD is at 61F. There is a wind advisory in effect beginning at 4AM and running through 3PM Sunday for wind gusts behind a cold front to 50 mph. Tomorrow will be a mostly sunny but brisk day.

The upcoming week ahead of Thanksgiving is forecasted to be seasonably chilly and tranquil -- just partly cloudy with highs 50F to 55F and lows 35F to 40F.

NWS U.S. weather advisories as of 0356UTC Nov. 19, 2017.

This is without the legends for the various advisories. There's a boatload over them over portions of western Alaska and the adjacent waters -- on the seas, all kinds of storm warnings and on land blizzard warnings.


As for today, I made it to the gym and got in a treadmill jog and weightlifting plus a quick swim. Last night, I had dinner at Baan Thai and then went to No. 9, Trade, and back to No. 9. I actually met a fellow named Chris who used to be a bartender at JRs way back in the early 2000s. He was in D.C. for a few days. It was very nice to meet him after all these years.

Looking south down 13th Street from U Street NW, Washington, D.C., 11:30AM November 17, 2017.


I slept today -- until about 3PM. For tomorrow, I'd like to take a walk in the bright, gusty fall day -- maybe in Alexandria or Arlington. I haven't done that in a while.

Office view from L'Enfant Plaza across part of SW Washington, D.C., 11:58AM November 17, 2017.


OK, that's all for now. I really don't feel like starting on any other topics right now. My next planned update will be late Monday or early Tuesday. Jukebox Saturday Night entry to follow momentarily ...


Thursday, November 16, 2017

REPOSTED: Last Month's Vox Article on the Incredible Binary Neutron Star Merger and Gravitational Wave Detection This Past August

Below is the entry I had intended to post about a month ago ...

A truly wondrous astronomical discovery has been made involving the detection of gravitational waves that can be directly linked to a binary star merger and resulting "kilonova" (a particular type of supernova) with initial gamma ray burst.

The discovery included a world-spanning astronomical investigation involving some 3,500 astronomers around the world -- not to mention confirmation of the source of gold, platinum, and even uranium in the Cosmos.

I've decided to post the bulk of the main article on the topic, but since I cannot embed the videos in it, I'm borrowing some additional images and videos (which I could embed) from other sources including (but not limited to) a set of articles linked at the end of this article).

Before I do that, though, I would like to embed this video that accompanied the online Washington Post article (linked below).

This embedded video features an explanation by of what the combined LIGO and VIRGO gravitational wave detectors recorded on August 17th, 2017 at 8:41AM EDT. (LIGO is actually two detectors -- one in Hanford, Wash., and another in Louisiana. VIRGO is the new gravitational wave detector in Europe that went online just this August.)

The scientist in the video explains also that this gravitational wave detection was different -- much longer -- than the black hole merger that marked LIGO's (and humanity's) first-ever direct gravitational wave detection back in 2016. In this case, as explained in the Washington Post article, a gravitational wave hit the Virgo detector in Italy and, 22 milliseconds later, set off the LIGO detector in Livingston, La., followed three milliseconds later by this spacetime distortion at the Hanford, Wash., facility.

Furthermore, just 1.7 second after the initial Virgo gravitational wave detection, NASA's Fermi Space Telescope recorded a gamma ray burst coming from the constellation Hydra -- and sure enough, there was the telltale signature of a kilonova marking the point where the two neutron stars (with masses of 1.6 and 1.1 solar masses, respectively) had merged.

It was astronomer and UC Santa Cruz postdoctoral researcher Charlie Kilpatrick of who -- using the Swope Telescope in Chile -- first saw the actual "transient" in visible light: The tiny new dot beside a galaxy known as NGC 4993, 130 million light-years away.

Hubble's view of the fading kilonova over the course of a few days. NASA and ESA. Acknowledgment: N. Tanvir (U. Leicester), A. Levan (U. Warwick), and A. Fruchter and O. Fox (STSc).

This image is from the shorter Vox article (linked below). 


OK, without further ado, here is reposted almost the full main article from ...

Gravitational waves just led us to the incredible origin of gold in the universe

LIGO kick-started an astronomical treasure hunt that ended with colliding neutron stars and gold.

Updated by Brian Oct 16, 2017, 6:28pm EDT
Source here.

The Nobel Prize-winning LIGO observatory has already changed the world of astronomy. When the scientists in the LIGO collaboration announced the first detection of gravitational waves in 2016, it meant they’d discovered a new way to observe the universe. For the first time, scientists could “listen” to ripples in spacetime created by the collision of massive objects like black holes.

But that was just the beginning. The dream, all along, was to combine gravitational wave detections with observations from more traditional telescopes.

On Monday, a team of thousands of LIGO scientists around the globe published an incredible finding spread throughout several papers in the journal Physical Review Letters. Not only did these scientists detect, for the first time, the gravitational waves produced from two colliding neutron stars, but they were able to pinpoint their location in the sky and witness the event with optical and electromagnetic telescopes.

"It's one of the most complete stories of an astrophysical event that you could possibly imagine," says LIGO physicist Peter Saulson at Syracuse University.

Each data source tells a different part of the story.

The gravitational waves tell physicists how large and how far away the objects are, and allow scientists to recreate the moments before they collided. Then the observations in optical light and electromagnetic waves fill in the blanks that gravitational waves can’t answer. They help astronomers nail down exactly what the objects were made out of, and which elements their collisions produced. In this case, the scientists were able to conclude that the resulting explosion from a neutron star merger produces heavy elements like gold, platinum, and uranium (which has been previously theorized but not confirmed by direct observation).

These scientists were able to witness, directly, the alchemy of the universe in action.

"I think the scientific impact of this discovery is actually going to be bigger than the first detection of black holes from gravitational waves," Duncan Brown, another LIGO collaborator also at Syracuse, says. "There is so much more physics and astronomy involved."

And it’s all the result of an amazing worldwide treasure hunt among the stars.

A race against the clock. A cosmic treasure hunt.

On August 17 at 8:41 am, LIGO detected gravitational waves -- literal distortions in space and time -- passing through Earth. LIGO is a pair of L-shaped observatories in Washington state and Louisiana that can detect when these waves temporarily squish and stretch the fabric of spacetime around us. In the past two years, LIGO had detected gravitational waves generated by black holes that had crashed into one another.

But this detection was very different.

For one, the signal was much stronger than the ones from the black hole discovery, which suggested it was much closer to Earth. It lasted 100 seconds, whereas the black hole signals lasted just a few.

When LIGO detects gravitational waves, it automatically sends out alerts to hundreds of scientists across the world. Brown was one of them. "We got on the phone very quickly, and we realized this was a very loud gravitational wave signal. It blew our socks off," he says.

Immediately apparent: This was no black hole merger. The initial analysis revealed that the waves were generated by the collision of two neutron stars -- extraordinarily dense, strange objects thought to be the cauldrons in which heavy elements are alchemized. Brown’s heart started to race.

When LIGO detects gravitational waves from colliding black holes, there’s nothing to see in the sky. Black holes are, as their name implies, dark. But a neutron star collision? That should unleash some visible fireworks.

X marks the spot

On the day of the gravitational wave detection, the scientists immediately got another clue that something big was happening. Two seconds after LIGO detected the gravitational waves, Fermi, a NASA satellite, detected a gamma-ray burst, one of the most powerful explosions of energy we know of in the universe.

It had long been theorized that neutron star mergers could create gamma-ray bursts. This couldn't be a coincidence.

But light from the neutron star merger and subsequent explosion would soon dim. And so the LIGO collaboration scientists were suddenly under intense pressure to move quickly. "The sooner you get telescopes on this thing, the more information you get," Brown says. Studying that light, and how it changes, would teach scientists a huge amount about neutron stars and how their collisions transform matter.

Brown and his team roared into gear, teleconferencing with dozens of scientists across the globe. The LIGO team, along with their counterparts VIRGO (a gravitational wave observing station in Italy), worked furiously to produce a star map showing the location of the gravitational waves. They narrowed it down to an area in the sky roughly the size of a fist held at arm’s length. (Even so, that's a huge area, astronomically speaking. Even an area the size of a pinhead at arm's length can contain thousands of galaxies.) The VIRGO detector in Italy actually did not pick up on the signal, but this helped zero in on the location. VIRGO has known blind spots, so the location of these neutron stars had to be near one of them.

Here’s how data from Fermi, LIGO, VIRGO, and another gamma-ray detector called Integral were combined to create the star map. Each detector produced an area where the signal could have possibly originated. Where they all overlapped was the "X marks the spot" on this cosmic treasure hunt.

With the map in hand, the LIGO team sent out an email alert to a global network of astronomers that could scan that region of sky once night fell.

And eureka! Several ground-based observatories nailed down the location of the kilonova, or the explosion after two neutron stars collide, that very night. On the left, you can see what astronomers captured on the night of the discovery. On the right is what it looked like a few days later. It had already dimmed greatly.

1M2H/UC Santa Cruz and Carnegie Observatories/Ryan Foley

Here's what the galaxy looked like a few weeks before the kilonova explosion (bottom image). The top image shows the kilonova.

The Dark Energy Camera GW-EM Collaboration and the DES Collaboration / PI: Berger.

These images may look fuzzy, but they’re bursting with information.

With the exact coordinates in hand, scientists could then focus the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory on the kilonova. And with these instruments, scientists were able to witness a slice of creation.

How colliding neutron stars make gold

Neutron stars are very strange objects. They're the leftovers of stars that have collapsed in on themselves (i.e., gone supernova). They're extremely dense. Imagine an object that has the same mass as the sun but is only 15 miles in diameter. That's 333,000 times the mass of the entire Earth squished into a ball roughly the size of Manhattan. The pressure inside this object is so immense, the only things that can exist inside it are neutrons (protons fused with electrons).

Artist's rendering of a 12-mile diameter neutron star to scale with the Chicago skyline.
(This is from the New York Time article linked below.)


In a galaxy 130 million light-years away, two of these objects were dancing around one another in orbit, growing closer and closer. Each was so dense and generated so much gravity that it caused tidal bulges on the other. The two collided, and the energy from the impact sent a wave of distorted spacetime across the universe, as well as a massive jet of particles out into space (this was the gamma-ray burst detected alongside the gravitational waves).

Both the gravitational waves and the gamma rays traveled at the speed of light, which is yet another proof of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity. It's possible the neutron stars were massive enough to form a new black hole after they merged. But there's not yet enough evidence to say this conclusively.

W. Kastaun/T. Kawamura/B. Giacomazzo/R. Ciolfi/A. Endrizzi

Here's what there is evidence to conclude: After the explosion, many of the remaining neutrons merged together to form elements.

All of us, and every element on planet Earth, are made from stars. The Big Bang at the beginning of time created the very light elements -- hydrogen and helium. Those elements came together and formed stars, whose fusion reactions formed elements with higher and higher masses.

When those stars went supernova (collapsed in on themselves and exploded), even heavier elements were created. But it's been "a mystery for a long time where gold and platinum come from," Brown explains. Even supernovae are not powerful enough to create those.

It had been theorized that a kilonova -- the explosion after the merger of two neutron stars -- could. And because astronomers were able to so quickly locate the merger, they confirmed this. The color and quality of the light coming from the afterglow of the explosion confirmed the creation of gold and platinum. It was like witnessing alchemy in action.

"The gold that we see on Earth was once created in the nuclear fire of a binary [neutron star] merger," Brown says. "I'm wearing a wedding ring right now; it's made of platinum. I'm like holy shit, this was made in a neutron star collision."

Scientists are convinced this is the beginning of a new age in astronomy

The right shows a visualization of the matter of the neutron stars. The left panel shows how spacetime is distorted near the collisions. Karan Jani/Georgia Tech

This discovery is so exciting because it means we're truly in a new age of astronomy. It means scientists can study celestial objects not just in terms of the light or radiation they emit -- they can also combine those observations with data from gravitational waves. It means scientists have data on the entirety of this collision. They have data on how the two neutron stars danced around each other, they have data on the moment of impact, and they have extensive data on the aftermath.

Combining all these sources of data is called "multi-messenger" astronomy. And it's been a dream of LIGO scientists since the observatory's inception.

The fun of gravitational wave observing is that it works passively. LIGO and VIRGO will "hear" whatever gravitational waves happen to be passing through the Earth on a given day. Each detection starts its own treasure hunt, as scientist have to discover what created the ripples in spacetime.

Scientists expect to observe more black hole mergers, more neutron star mergers. But stranger, cooler observations may come through as well. If LIGO and VIRGO continue to be upgraded, it's possible they could detect gravitational waves still rippling away from the Big Bang. Or, more excitingly, they could detect sources of gravitational waves that have never been predicted or observed.

A few other articles on the subject (when I took some of the images and videos in this entry):

And with that, I shall end this entry.