Gravitational waves: Scientist spoils biggest scientific announcement of the century with a cake

Erin Ryan, a researcher at Nasa, posted a photo of the cake bearing the message about ‘ripples in the fabric of spacetime’ about 15 minutes before anyone was supposed to know

A scientist accidentally spoiled one of the biggest scientific announcements this century — by baking a cake.

Erin Ryan is a research associate at the University Maryland and works at Nasa, who had baked a cake to celebrate the announcement of the detection of gravitational waves. She tweeted a picture of her work in celebration — but 14 minutes before anyone was supposed to know.

Scientists heard the all-important gravitational wave back in September, and have been working to check and understand it since. It meant that many scientists already knew about the news.

But the official announcement was embargoed until 10.30 local time. That meant that reporters and other scientists already knew about the news, but weren’t supposed to announce it until the team had a chance to do so.

However, the cake broke that embargo, and announced the discovery at 10.16.

Ryan said on the Twitter account, where posted the cake, that the embargo only applied to the press. It didn’t cover all other people, including if they just wrote the news down on a baked good, she said.

And, she claimed, the cake picture wasn’t the moment that the embargo was actually broken. That was when she commissioned the cake, she wrote — “Embargo was already broken to tell the baker!”

Ryan previously broke another embargo by tweeting a picture of the cake that showed the discovery of a chemical on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. She said that her boss “officially reprimanded me for breaking the propene embargo for Cassini”.