Thursday, April 27, 2017 at 7:30 P.M.
University of Colorado Boulder
Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of space and time predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years ago. After a half century effort, we humans have had our first contact with these waves. LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) has detected and deciphered gravitational waves produced by pairs of colliding black holes a billion light years from Earth. Thorne will describe LIGO and its discoveries, and the future of gravitational-wave astronomy: A future that will include at least four different frequency bands (the gravitational analogs of X-ray, optical, infrared, and radio astronomy); and a future in which astronomers will probe a rich range of phenomena, including the birth of the universe and the birth of the fundamental forces of nature in our universe’s earliest moments.
Kip Thorne is the Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus, at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. He is a theoretical physicist specializing in the astrophysical effects of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, especially black holes and gravitational waves. He was one of the founding members of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) in 1984. The goal of LIGO is to observe gravitational waves from extreme astrophysical events. Gravitational waves were first predicted by Albert Einstein one-hundred years ago this year. While there is good indirect evidence for gravitational waves based on the behavior of binary pulsars, the first direct measurement of a gravitational wave was announced by the LIGO team on February 11, 2016. Two independent laser interferometers in Livingston, Louisiana and Hanford, Washington observed a gravitational wave on September 14, 2015. Analysis of the signal indicates the wave was produced by the collision of two black holes more than one-billion light years away.
Professor Thorne is an accomplished author of books for scientists and the general public, and he was the scientific consultant and Executive Producer of the film Interstellar.