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Thursday 18 February 2016

Chirp: a rant

More than a billion year ago two black holes collided. The resultant disturbance gave out about fifty times more energy than all the stars in the universe combined.

On September 14th 2015 the most sensitive detector on Earth, the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory*), built at a cost of just under $500 million, registered gravitational waves that were a consequence of that disturbance.

The Right Honourable the Lord Rees of Ludlow OM FRS FREng FMedSci, the Astronomer Royal (yes, cute, isn't it: the English have kept one since 1675) said: 'This detection of the great discoveries of the decade.' 

Other have spoken of the beginning of a whole new way of investigating the universe.

Right. And so what have they called this momentous discovery, this proof of a huge cataclysm? The proof, as well, of a hundred-year-old theory of Einstein's that underpins so much recent knowledge?

A chirp.

A chirp???

Yep. A chirp.

Look, people, I love a bit of modest self-deprecation as much as anyone. But, hey, you know something, professors? 

It's not all about you.

Word To Use Today, But Only If You Hear A Bird: chirp. This word has been around, firstly as chirpinge, since the 1400s. It's an imitation of the sound of a bird.

*No, I don't know what happened to the W for Wave, either. The place has been called LIGWO in the past.)

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