2021 LISA NZ Workshop – Quick and Characteristically Non-Technical Thoughts

For those of you who didn’t come to FWPhys for the first time after reading my graduate school application, you may be interested to know that I also run the New Zealand Astrostatistics and General Relativity Working Group’s online presence (Gravity.ac.nz), which is part of the ESA-led LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) project due in 2034.

Quite remarkably, the group’s first workshop was able to be held in person today, at the University of Auckland, downstairs.

LISA brings together a vast array of STEM expertise, from the rocket people that get the satellites where they should be with remarkable precision, to the stats people who ensure the physicists are reading what they think they should read; from the geometers kicking Schwarzschild Black Holes into Kerr ones, to … us1 … dreaming of finding not-yet-dead stars’ gravitational signatures.

Between my astrophysics enlightenment early on in high school and the onset of my PhD work (this phase is going to be over soon), I always found it sad that humans developed in a reasonably quiet corner of a depressingly quiet galaxy.

On the one side, you’ll see why my sentiment is justified: my dream of seeing a black hole cannot be accomplished without some form of resurrection, and the odds that I see a supernova with my own eyes in my lifetime is vanishingly low.

On the other, I appreciate our humble cosmic upbringing. With fun stellar explosions (Gamma-Ray-Bursts) and roaming massive stars still suspects for some of the major extinction events on this planet’s history, boredom was for the better — and we overcame it. By making ourselves more capable through science and math, it may be the case that we broke the mold that shaped our cosmic vision.

In Rekele2, I wrote a little technical prose on the then-Ftdsci Blog that the earth is the most fearsome celestial body in the known universe — the only place with inhabitants that’s known to be capable of fear, for sure, but also where a bunch of apes measured the size of all other celestial bodies and charted what is outside of their familiarity and comfort. That we managed to distill whatever meager supply of information that the universe cared to supply us, and gained remarkable insight of the stage long before it was our turn to show up in the play.

LISA might be a long-awaited jerk onto some parts of the physics ship to bring them back to the realm of science, and for that, sentimentally, I am excited to be part of its journey.


1: Us vaguely means theoretical cosmologists and science-minded hep-th practitioners.

2: What I call Berkeley.

3: There are two notions of the cosmological golden age. The narrow definition refers to now and the past two decades, where humans launched or finished numerous science projects that utilize more channels than ever through which cosmological data is acquired: Gamma-Ray, X-Ray, IR, Microwave, Pulsar Timing, huge sky surveys, HDF, Gravitational Wave(beta), and so on. On the broad sense, it means that humans emerged in the history of the cosmos soon enough to still have tangible access to the cosmological birthmarks and understanding of structures outside our physical reach. One day, things we cannot fly to, we won’t be able to see either.

I say that I dig silver in this golden age.