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The Cake is a Spoiler - Gravitational Waves News Tweeted Too Early

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If you haven't been following the news of late, you might have missed  the fact that we now have definitive proof of the existence of gravitational waves. This is a huge, huge deal, as any science-savvy readers among you will agree. I'll let Neil DeGrasse Tyson explain exactly why in the video below, but in short, it means that we've found a way to detect the gravitational ripples sent out through space and time by events in the universe that generate a large amount of energy. The one that we've just detected, for instance, came from the formation of a super massive black hole which happened 1.3 billion years ago.


Breaking big scientific news isn't quite as straight forward as it used to be, but social media has been largely advantageous to it. For the first time, NASA and others have been able to live broadcast their findings and doings almost globally, making moments like the Pluto flyby and the landing of Philae on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko all the more widely accessible.

Issues arise, however, when the scientists in question have to keep the news to themselves for any length of time. When it started looking like the discovery of gravitational waves had been confirmed, an agreement was made to wait until everyone was 1000% certain before making a public announcement. As such, a media embargo was placed until 10:30am EST on February 11th. At 10:14am, the news slipped out. In the form of a celebratory cake.



The offending dessert was commissioned by the folks over at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, as a gift for the researchers at LIGO Hanford Observatory, where the discovery had been confirmed. Before the embargo was lifted, two photos of the cake were tweeted, one by astrophysicist Mark Kuchner and one by research associate Erin Ryan.

Ryan ended up weathering all the flack for the premature announcement, but was quick to point out that plenty of others had tweeted about the news too early, and that the embargo was really applicable to the news media. The trouble was, her Twitter is followed by a few different journalists from NPR, and The Washington Post. The other thing worth bearing in mind is that this is actually the second time Ryan has jumped the starting line on Twitter with a cake picture.



Amazingly, in September 2013, Ryan tweeted an image of the cake that had been made to celebrate the discovery of certain chemicals in the atmosphere on Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and once again it was too early. In that case she was actually officially reprimanded by her boss. Cake appears to be the enemy of discretion in more ways than we ever knew. In the long run, Ryan's premature embargo caking hasn't done any harm, but it certainly puts an amusing twist on the typical Twitter news leaking. There's probably a joke in here somewhere about cakes having layers and waves rippling through time, but I lack the qualifications to make it, both in culinary and astrophysical terms.



Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF


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The Cake is a Spoiler - Gravitational Waves News Tweeted Too Early Reviewed by Callum Davies on Friday, February 12, 2016 Rating: 5

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