Bodley Head scoops deal on gravitational wave detection

Bodley Head scoops deal on gravitational wave detection

The Bodley Head is publishing an "exclusive firsthand account" of the scientific hunt for gravitational waves.

The successful detection of gravitational waves was announced yesterday (11th February) by LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory). The BBC reported that the breakthrough could "usher in a new era for astronomy", according to the international team behind the discovery, equal in importance to the discovery of the Higgs Boson at CERN with scope to ultimately offer a window to the Big Bang.

The existence of gravitational waves was first predicted by Einstein a century ago in his "Theory of General Relativity" - but until now there has been no means of doing so. The story of LIGO spans over 40 years, beginning with the work of a handful of pioneering scientists in a shed, and is now a billion-dollar project involving 950 scientists worldwide.

The book, entitled Black Hole Blues and Other Songs From Outer Space, is described as "a compelling, intimate portrait of cutting-edge science at its most awe-inspiring and ambitious". It will be authored by theoretical astrophysicist and award-winning writer Janna Levin, whose work includes modelling the form of gravitational waves. She interviewed many of the lead scientists on the project and was given full access to LIGO in order to tell the story of the "epic scientific achievement". Levin will provide "an insider’s account of the surprises, disappointments, achievements and risks that led to LIGO’s success", said The Bodley Head.

Kip Thorne, the co-founder of LIGO, said: "This is a beautifully written account of the quest to open the 'gravitational-wave window' onto our universe. As a participant in this wonderful quest, I applaud Janna Levin for capturing so well our vision, our struggles, and the ethos and spirit of our torturous route toward success."

Levin is a professor of physics and astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University and director of sciences at Pioneer Works, a centre for art and innovation in Brooklyn. She has contributed to the understanding of black holes, the cosmology of extra dimensions and gravitational waves. She was the first scientist-in-residence at the Ruskin School of Fine Art and Drawing at Oxford University with an award from NESTA, and was recently named a Guggenheim fellow. Her previous books are How the Universe Got Its Spots (Anchor Books) and a novel, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines (Anchor Books) which won the PEN/ Bingham prize. She has also appeared at TED and contributes to numerous radio and television programmes.