Einstein, Gravitational Waves and a New Science [note time and location]

Speaker: 
Barry Barish (Caltech)
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2017-11-30 17:30 - 18:30
Location: 
Hebb Theatre
Local Contact: 
Douglas Scott
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate

Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves 100 years ago, but the effects are so tiny that even Einstein thought they could never be detected. After 40 years of controversy, theorists finally developed a consensus that they really do exist. Then the problem became whether experimental physicists could develop instruments sensitive enough to actually detect them? The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), using exquisitely sensitive techniques, has made the dramatic observations of gravitational waves coming from the collision of two Black Holes and more recently, Binary Neutron Stars. These observations have opened a totally new window on the universe. The history, techniques and scientific implications will be discussed.

Barish led the LIGO project as the principal investigator and director from the beginning of construction in 1994 until 2005, and continues to play an active role in the collaboration.  On 11th February 2016, it was announced that LIGO’s upgraded detectors had made the first ever observation of gravitational waves from a pair of merging black holes.  This was followed by other discoveries, including the first simultaneous detection of gravitational waves and electromagnetic radiation from colliding neutron stars on 17th August 2017.  In recognition of this work Barish received the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, along with his LIGo colleagues Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss.

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