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Prof. Karsten Danzmann: ‘Berlin must participate in this research phase’

Prof Karsten Danzmann is director of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, aka the Albert Einstein Institute in Hanover and Potsdam. He is an international authority on research into gravitational waves. He recently spoke in Potsdam about developments with, among others, minister Robbert Dijkgraaf and with Hans Plets and Stan Bentvelsen of the Einstein Telescope EMR project office. His message summarised in two questions.

How do you view the Einstein Telescope initiative in the border region between Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands?

Karsten Danzmann: “This Euroregion around Maastricht, Aachen and Liège is the ideal place for a detector of gravitational waves of the latest, third generation. This is due to the knowledge accumulated over decades in the Netherlands and Germany. Top researchers in this field work in Amsterdam and Maastricht. Our institute in Hannover, the AEI, has played a major role in the development of existing detectors such as LIGO in the United States and Virgo in Italy. Belgium is now also doing well. And around the corner in Aachen, there is the RWTH and the expertise of the Fraunhofer Institutes IPT and ILT. But technical and scientific knowledge is not the only thing. Importantly, the Dutch government has also already committed concrete money. Almost €1 billion, already about half of the estimated cost. This shows that there is confidence in the project. We need to take the Einstein Telescope further with the cooperation and financial commitment of these three countries: that makes it a strong story, I am convinced.”

The state government of North Rhine-Westphalia is enthusiastic about the Einstein Telescope. Now federal Germany (‘Berlin’) is also looking at it. What do you expect?

Karsten Danzmann: “I said at the meeting in Potsdam that you have to think in steps. Nobody in the federal government or in politics should be afraid of asking for billions now. But getting Berlin involved in the current planning phase would be a good first step. Germany would then show that it values development. And you do that as a neighbouring country, together with Belgium and the Netherlands. It also clarifies the current assessment of feasibility and costs. I think Germany could well contribute EUR 50 million to this feasibility study. A strong preparation phase now can prevent you from facing additional and higher costs later. Moreover, as a large country you are then really involved and can make a well-considered decision later when it comes to larger sums when it comes to actually building the Einstein Telescope.”

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