Gravitational Waves: Hearing Space for the First Time

Predicted model of a black hole and it's accretion disk based on the 'Gargantua' seen in Interstellar. Photo courtesy of Gizmodo, 2015.

On February 11th the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected the presence of gravitational waves (that was it's job after all) and confirmed a theory that Einstein predicted roughly a century ago. Part of the development of this theory was the notion that space and time are stretched like a giant blanket. We still don't understand how this works (like, the core of what makes gravity gravity) but when you add things with mass to this blanket their gravity bends the web and pulls smaller objects toward them. This explains the moon's orbit around the Earth, the Earth around the Sun, the Sun around the center of the universe, the universe around the... you get it. When large, or dense, objects with a lot of gravity (say, black holes) collide or accelerate at high speeds it was predicted that they would release a gravitational burst that would distort the fabric of space time. Last week we confirmed that this is, in fact, real. 

So, how did they do it? The lab itself used to test this is constructed of two giant arms extending out from each other at a 90 degree angle. At each end are mirrors that face opposite each other and fire a small laser back and forth 400 times. These gravity waves have virtually no bearing on us, but light is a sensitive thing and can pick up on these small variations. To detect the presence of these waves there needs to be some difference in the time it takes for the beams to reach their source. This difference was recorded at two sperate LIGO facilities on the same day, the source that generated it? A pair of black holes merging. Yeah.

The significance of this discovery is layered and perhaps not readily apparent (at least not for me). We didn't discover gravitational waves, we confirmed them. In essence, this guy was able to reason a profound fundamental truth about the nature of the universe using only his mind and the logic derived from within. Since he first put forth his theory of relativity, we've confirmed that gravity distorts light, time, and can distort the space around an object across the universe. And he reasoned all this was likely before we had the internet. 

But there's more to what this news means for all of us. On the one hand, it reveals another layer of uniform intricacy within our universe. We've been studying for years the nature of waves and what consistency might remain across the different forms (light, sound, magnetic, quantum, etc) and this allows for another form of this phenomenon to be studied. What's more, we've spent the majority of human history studying space through light and light alone. This opens up a completely new way to detect the goings on all around us. The metaphor being tossed around is that it's like suddenly being able to listen to the universe. We of course won't know what all we're listening to, but imagine yourself walking through the rain forest with your ears covered. There's a deeper (maybe even scarier) world that is revealed once you can hear your surroundings as well. 

There's no limit to what these new ears can give us but one thing is certain: there's going to be a lot we just had no clue about. On a personal note, one of my favorite things about space exploration, and particularly the folks who study this stuff, is that you have to have certain willingness to be dumbfounded, to be surprised. To be completely wrong. For me, there's something wildly profound about leaping off into the unknown, into this great void around us and daring to come back with something new, some greater triumph. Like some Theseus shit or something. When I write, this sort of exploration is always present in my mind. To have the courage to dig up some deep (and often dark) inner truths about yourself, and to know that sometimes they won't necessarily be explained or reasoned away. Sometimes all you can do is take a step back, see it for what it is and say "wow."

Spreading the Love

"Evolution is… running towards your fears. Once you get there embrace it with every part of you"  --Shaman Durek

A few weeks ago I was participating as a musician in a guided group meditation by Shaman Durek and I felt the impact. His words of wisdom were simple, but really hit down deep. As someone who has fears—just like anyone else in the world—I found a lot of light during this discussion and meditation.

He was answering questions from Jimmy Chamberlin about his ‘profession.’ But after witnessing this event, ‘profession’ isn’t the right way to word it. I would call it ‘a way of life’. He simply emanated good and truth. Every word, every hug, every laugh was something that came from his soul.

Here is a quick piece entitled Ravens Caw that really captures what discoveries I came to when I listened intently to what he had to say.

“The raven takes us to the edge of ourselves to welcome a time that will bring the rain to cleanse us. No fear will live in us the day our face becomes clear. We have to live. Let love set you free. Transforming our lies into truths for they will set us apart. The day we won't remember the pain. We will see only the lessons that gave us strength and wisdom. All wrong will be right we will turn night into day. We will see the rain as a gift from heaven to wash over us. We played in the dirt, so we must stand to be cleansed. Clearing our eyes and soaking our skin and soften our spirit. We feel the same about the visions we see. We all want this world to love more and find grace in between. We just have to let it be. We can share the voices of spirit in our creative pursuits. All the beauty is woven into our life story. Lift our hearts and sing of freedom. Walk into the waters and cleanse. Feel the drop of rain fall on your skin and run down your face. Be exposed and the light of suns within suns will fill up our space. All is blessed and well for us all in every passing hour.”

--Shaman Durek

After hearing him speak at Soho House in Chicago—I followed my raven and I let the rain wash over me. We all have things that we regret and that we hate. But, what if we let that anger wash away? What if we move on from the past and work on something that matters now? Surely the answer will open you up to a world you have never even seen before.

If this resonates with you, I urge you to really check out Shaman Durek. This man does incredible things for the world and I know that team Sedgewick is doing everything we can to spread the love and truth.

Now go find that raven!


You can check out Shaman Durek's website here!

What I Learned from the Falcon 9 Landing

 Pale Blue Dot - Photo of the Earth from 4 Billion Miles away; Courtesy of NASA's Voyager 1 Probe. Feb 14th, 1990.

Pale Blue Dot - Photo of the Earth from 4 Billion Miles away; Courtesy of NASA's Voyager 1 Probe. Feb 14th, 1990.

On December 21st last year, the Falcon 9 landed in Cape Canaveral, FL and history was made. This was the first rocket to exit the Earth's atmosphere and return (mostly) intact. 'Mostly' because it was a two-stage rocket, meaning that it separated into two parts to deliver the payload, with half returning to the Earth. 'Exit the Earth's atmosphere' meaning send stuff up into space. This was the result of a lot of hard work and creativity and I'm convinced that there's some parallel here between this event and what it is to be successful as a musician and frankly as a human being today. 

The historical significance might not seem like much at first glance. This is, after all, just another satellite cluttering up the region of space above our atmosphere. Yes, but it's the first one to do that and come back. The economic benefits of insuring that something like this works consistency can best be summed by this metaphor I've seen tossed around these days: current spaceflight is so inefficient it's like throwing away the airplane after every flight. Suddenly the Falcon ain't so boring hmm?

But there's another side to this story that I think is significant and it's at the core of what this post is all about. On January 17th, the Falcon 9 landed and then failed to deploy one of it's landing legs, tipping over and exploding on the drone landing pad. For this second attempt, Space X was trying to land the rocket on their computer powered landing boat. The idea being that it's much more fail safe to have something that can go out and catch the damn thing rather than always hoping you can land the rocket in the same place. There was some ice build up and the landing leg failed to deploy causing the rocket to tip over. This wasn't something they anticipated but it's definitely something they're going to plan for from here on out. This was just the most recent crash in a history of crashes while the team figures out how this is going to work. 

Space X has a very interesting history. Founded in 2002 by Elon Musk ("the PayPal guy"), the goal was simple: start a private company that would significantly reduce the costs of space flight; and because he's secretly a supervillian, fund and sustain a colony on Mars. Seriously, this dude is great. The company started a year after 9/11, when the country was working it's way into another endless war and was slowly pulling the plug on wasteful such as NASA and like, dreaming. Musk took one look at this and said, "Fuck it, I'll do this myself". They have since become the first private organization to deliver a satellite, to send a payload to the ISS, and now to re-use a freaking rocket. But what does this have to do with us?

The 21st century has shown a rise in alternative sources of power. No I'm not talking about things like this insane invention from a different company run by Mr. Musk. I'm referring to the way we've been restructuring the way we view and engage with providers, entrepreneurs, and organizations that innovate. From NASA to Space X and Virgin; from the big farms to your backyard; and here in the music business from the Big Labels to the small labels to, well, the no labels. People are becoming increasingly more creative in how they move to get shit done and sustain their lives in the process. 

The Falcon landing stirred me even more when I thought about in the context of this quote by Neil deGrasse Tyson given to Congress to encourage them to give more money to NASA. If you don't have 5 minutes to spend listening (and shame on you if that's the case) I'll get to the meat of it. We got into the space race because we were trying to flex our wealth and strength during the Cold War. As the war died off and the Russian interest in space diminished, we lost our interest. Our motivations became economic ones and we (stupidly) assumed that there was just no money to be had in space. As Neil beautifully put: "we stopped dreaming." 

So what is so inspiring about Musk's commitment to innovation in spite of all this? Because it's not about the fucking money, it's not about flexing anything; it's about that simple drive that pushes us to inch past another limit. And another. And another. Until we've landed on the Moon. On Venus. On Mars. On a goddamn Asteroid. Until limits are no longer a reality but instead a challenge, another benchmark. The reward then is not any cheap financial gain, or visions of grandeur. But instead the reward of conquering the impossible. "We choose to go to the moon, not because it is easy but because it is hard."

I write this one week from my 25th birthday while I think about what success means to me. Or on a deeper level, what success feels like. In one sense I think it is dreaming and continuing to dream in the face of all else. To crash and burn and get back up again, and then crash and burn some more. Slowly killing everything except the drive to get up one more time. There will always be a reason to get up and there will always be a way to crash again. We tell ourselves shoot for the stars because it is the highest we can possibly reach. Because in setting out in that direction we discover and conquer imaginable unknowns and find the inspiration to dream higher and higher. 

Let's make a pact together:

Let's start dreaming again. 



Dream Big, Tour Small: How to Tour Healthily

In my time as a musician, I've met a good number of colleagues that talk about touring much like one talks about taxes: it's absolutely necessary, extremely draining and soul-sucking, and sometimes if you're very lucky, you'll get a decent return on it. It's so bad that some of my friends have gotten into drugs on the road that they never thought they'd do -- and not just for leisurely reasons -- actually self-medicating so they can play shows back-to-back, day-in day-out. They insist there's no other way. Then there are the friends of mine that have even given up touring altogether and just survive on licensing fees and ad placements alone. But why? Is touring doomed to be the bane of a musician's life, wreaking havoc on relationships and physical well-being wherever it shows its face?

While my experience touring has not been as extensive as many, I have done enough to know that, not surprisingly, who you tour for and where you tour will greatly influence your ability to keep touring healthily. A great songwriter and role model/mentor of ours, Mike Vial recently interviewed and blogged about touring musician Josh Harty, and I came across one quote from that interview that really sums up how important modesty is in planning and executing tours:

 Image courtesy of Josh Harty.

Image courtesy of Josh Harty.

"Don’t start too big or grandiose. Concentric circles around your base and keep working outward. If you keep going where nobody knows you and playing shitty shows where no one cares, your touring days are numbered. You need to keep up morale in my opinion."

Touring is no different than any other product you offer your fans: you are trying to bring your music to them where they are. Start with the people who know you first, and build a community outward from there. Put that European tour on hold for another few years. Your heart and body, and your career, will thank you for it.


Check out a brand new song from Mike Vial below.

Importance of Community

"Life lives on life. We all eat and are eaten. When we forget this we cry; when we remember this, we can nourish one another." --Buddha's instructions interpreted by Jack Kornfield

In our world of music, people are striving to expand their web, to broaden their horizons. It creates pockets of little families who go out to support the arts--but what if we all made more of an effort to see a live show? How do we make that live show intimate and special again? Everything is a mouse-click away these days and the Sedgewick team is looking to create something that you can’t click on.

We would like to invite everyone reading this to join our community.  I am eager to harvest a nourishing and supportive musical family. Won’t you join the Sedgewick team?

In honor of cultivating this deeper experience--tell us where you are playing! We would like to join your family and broaden the scope of our musical community. Let the jamming begin!