No matter how educated or open-minded you might be, we all have our own individual take on the world and to that extent we all blinders on that limit our perspective and our ability to see the reality of our world – -and beyond – for what it really is. But, if we accept that there’s more going on than we know about, and change the lens we’re looking through, it can open entirely new vistas and opportunities: from big-picture things like a greater understanding of our universe to more practical things like helping businesses more effectively provide services to clients.

If you’re looking for open-minded, perspective-changing revolutions in science and business the first place you think to look may not be Baton Rouge. Or neighboring Livingston Parish. What you’re about to find out may come as something of a shock.

the Edge of the Universe

Dr Joe Giamie heads up LIGO where he spends his day at the edge of the universe

Dr Joe Giamie heads up LIGO where he spends his day at the edge of the universe

Dr. Joseph Giaime is Observatory Head of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory better known as LIGO, arguably one of the most exciting and best-kept secrets in Louisiana. LIGO is located in remote Livingston Parish and is a research facility that was designed to open the field of gravitational-wave astrophysics through the detection of gravitational waves, which, as you may remember was predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

LIGO’s massive and super-sophisticated equipment is able to detect cosmic gravitational waves and to develop gravitational-wave observations as an astronomical tool. It is one of just two such facilities in the country – it has a sister facility in Washington State that works in tandem with it – and is tied in with two research centers in California and at MIT. And they are unlocking the secrets of our universe.

In 2015, LIGO researchers made international headlines when they did in fact discover gravitational waves generated by a colliding pair of black holes some 1.3 billion light years away – a discovery that earned them a Nobel Prize. Joe is also a professor of physics and astronomy at LSU, who came here back in the 1990s to begin working at the LIGO facility here.

While Joe is looking at what’s going on out at the edge of the into the universe, the rest of us spend the day looking at YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram. When you’re online you may have noticed over the last couple of years there’s a greater prevalence of what’s called “immersive content.” That’s those 360 degree video options that make it look like you you’re actually walking through a house, and you may have also used it if you’ve had telemedicine visit. That technology has been developed locally here in Baton Rouge by a company called Project Zenith 360. The co-owner of Project Zenith 360 is Conner Leblanc.

Connor Leblanc's Project Zenith 360 creates 360 degree video for that online immersive experience

Conner Leblanc’s Project Zenith 360 creates 360 degree video for that online immersive experience

Conner’s company is developing all sorts of applications for this technology in the healthcare, hospitality, and real estate sectors, to name a few. Conner and his co-owners founded the company in 2019, shortly after they all graduated from LSU and shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, which changed everything and for them, created all sorts of new opportunities.

Joe Giamie, Connor Leblanc, Stephanie Riegel, out to virtual lunch

Joe Giamie, Connor Leblanc, Stephanie Riegel, out to virtual lunch

These traditional one-dimensional photos are by Jill Lafleur. And check out other equally surprising scientific and tech breakthroughs from their home in Baton Rouge.

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