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       The Editor's Page


     Heading for a Big Fall

          by Dave Beckett

     beckett@ligo.caltech.edu


     Ah, Fall.

Autumn in Los Angeles     The season of early sunsets and long shadows, of black-and-blue clouds and red-and-brown leaves, of sweaters, jackets, mittens, mufflers, and great mugs of steaming beverages. Brrrrr!

     Why, sometimes the daytime temperature here in Pasadena, California, dips as low as 72 degrees! Yikes! Heating bills skyrocket and sun block lotion is jealously hoarded in anticipation of barren store shelves and frosty months soon to come.

     Yes, Autumn in Los Angeles. It sounds like a Gershwin tune, and so it should be. You can almost imagine the triumphant melody blaring from your Porsche's CD player as you speed-shift down the asphalt course of Sunset Boulevard, careening through the banked curves with all the expertise of an Olympic bob-sledder on a gold-medal run. The angry siren of a pursuing police car adds a subtle counterpoint, you notice, to Gershwin's ingenious use of trilling strings.

New Beginnings

     But all fantasy aside, Fall is of course a glorious season, a time of...well, now that I actually ponder it, of terrible death and decay, of stinky things rotting and withering and of a general waning of life. And as my theme here is fresh starts and new beginnings, this metaphor is clearly not going to serve too well. So I think I'll just abandon it.

Fresh Starts

     Fall--it is of course a glorious season, a time of blossoming life, green sprigs on the trees, and fresh starts and new beginnings. Why? Because I said so! Come on, get with the program!

     Yea, verily it is so. And what better time than this to unveil a new LIGO Newsletter, with a new look, new and improved content, and a renewed commitment to you, our loyal readers, to publish a new issue each and every month? Hah! Soon our humble little gazette will be as common on the breakfast tables of the world as artificially-sweetened, chocolate-frosted, jelly-filled starch products!

Gurgle-Gurgle-GurgleIf I seem a little giddy this month it's only because editing this issue of the newsletter has had an intoxicating effect on me. You'll see what I mean as you read on. High-spirits and playfulness are rampant this edition. Whackiness, Zaniness, and Kookookery too are much in evidence. One way to tell is by the number of exclamation points strewn throughout the articles. This issue has more exclamations than a Three Stooges film. All my writers this month are shouting, laughing, hitching up their skirts and kilts and dancing on the tables, all apparently bursting to apprise you of recent LIGO news. Check out for starters Fred Raab's account of the Beam Tube bakeout at Hanford. Notice how the headline, "First Module A Hot Success!" is fairly barked out at you. And that same exuberant tone watutses through his whole story. The man plainly needs tranquilizers.

     Then, zip over to Garilynn Billingsley's tale of the LIGO work going on at Caltech's Metrology lab. The story barges in the door with a single shouted word, "Earthquake!" and the pace never relents. But for the absolute zenith in sheer, stuttering, inarticulate excitement, tip-toe over to Gerry Stapfer's report on Livingston, Louisiana's recent atypical weather. I mean, it's an article about weather, right? How interesting can that be? The weather is what you talk about when you can't think of anything else to say. But Gerry is so volcanic about the story that for the first dozen words all he can do is roar shouts, grunts and oaths at you--like a guy with Tourette's Syndrome. And yet the weirdest part is that it really is a gripping report. In Gerry's hands, a weather bulletin can read like a Tom Clancy novel, real edge-of-your-seat stuff.

But Seriously Folks...

     None of these glib remarks of mine, by the way, are meant to be taken too seriously. As I say, I've simply caught the scent of joie de vivre that has been wafting through the air here, a scent as pleasant as a whiff of Chanel.

     Nor do I wish to imply that the above-mentioned articles are not jam-packed with good, wholesome, informational content and factual high-fiber. Because they are! All our stories this month are! In this issue you'll also find Phil Lindquist's peppy debriefing on the latest NSF review of LIGO. Livingston chief Mark Coles weighs in with a duo of reports from his homebase. Caltech's Bill Kells gives you the latest on the 40 meter recycling effort. And finally, the redoubtable David Shoemaker presents all the news and a ton of pictures from the MIT LIGO group. A pretty stellar lineup, all told, and one possessing that just-right-mixture of hard science and LIGO status updates that has made our newsletter a fitting companion to those other great journals of knowledge: Nature, Discover, Science, Scientific American. Yes, like them we regard the voyage of science as a grave and stately mission, ever to be treated with the utmost dignity. But, somewhat less like them, we've chosen never to lose our impish sense of humor.

     Because to do that would mean we were heading for a big Fall.