Published: April 20, 2017

Kip Thorne in front of Colliding Black Holes

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Kip S. Thorne, Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, gave the 51st George Gamow Memorial Lecture at CU Boulder on the topic of, “Probing the Warped Side of the Universe with Gravitational Waves: From the Big Bang to Black Holes.”

A half century ago, Thorne proposed that theoretical “gravitational waves,” which he describes as “ripples in the fabric of space and time,” could be used to explore the origins of the universe, and finding them became a major focus of his career. In 1984 he co-founded the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, with physicists Rainer Weiss from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Caltech’s Ronald Drever, to begin the search.

And on Feb. 11, 2016—a century after Albert Einstein first posited the existence of gravitational waves—a team of LIGO scientists announced that the decades-long quest had had been achieved with the detection of gravitational waves in September 2015.

Thorne also has carved out a role as a creative consultant to Hollywood. He suggested to his friend Carl Sagan that he make use of a “wormhole” in the science-fiction film of his book, “Contact,” and co-wrote the treatment for a film that would become “Interstellar,” for which Thorne served as executive producer.

The lecture, presented by the Department of Physics, is made possible by an endowment honoring Gamow, the late CU Boulder physicist who pioneered the concept that would become known as the Big Bang and authored many much-loved books popularizing science. Previous speakers have included 25 recipients of the Nobel Prize as well as globally known scientists Jane Goodall, Freeman J. Dyson, Linus Pauling and others.

“We are honored to have Kip Thorne give the 51st George Gamow Memorial Lecture. Professor Gamow would have been enthralled by the recent discovery by LIGO of gravitational waves from colliding black holes,” says Paul Beale, professor of physics and chair of the Gamow Memorial Lecture Committee.

View the A&S Magazine Article