Scientist Tweets Picture of Cake, Accidentally Reveals Discovery of Gravitational Waves

By

When it comes to physics, always bet on Einstein. He’s been dead for more than half a century, but Wednesday a team of physicists confirmed that one of his most important theories about the universe holds up: They proved the existence of gravitational waves. Gravitational waves are wrinkles in the fabric of space-time that originate from the collision and merger of two black holes billions of years ago. In other words, this discovery confirms the correctness of Einstein’s theories about the behavior of matter within the universe. But before the team could officially announce its discovery to the world, it was one-upped by a sheet cake.

Erin Ryan, a research associate at the University of Maryland who works at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, tweeted a photo of a cake announcing the “direct detection of gravitational waves” 16 minutes before the announcement went out this morning, the Washington Post reports. When scientists make a big discovery like this, they often let selected media in on the news a little early so reporters can try to figure out what the hell they’re talking about before they write a story. But those reporters agree not to publish until the news is officially released — in journo lingo, it’s under embargo. Today’s embargo was scheduled to be lifted at 10:30 a.m., a quarter-hour after Ryan’s tweet.

This isn’t the first time Ryan’s Twitter fingers have gotten her in trouble, either. In September 2013 she accidentally tweeted a picture of another celebratory cake, this one announcing the discovery of a chemical called propylene on one of Saturn’s moons. “They weren’t happy about it,” Ryan told the Post, referring to her bosses. “They told me to maybe chill with the tweeting for a week or so.” Perhaps this second incident will spur researchers to stick to less news-driven science-lab confectionery.

Scientist Tweets Cake, Breaks Embargo