High Energy Physics Seminar: Prof. Shane Larson, CIERA, Northwestern University and Adler Planetarium  Add To Calendar

  • Date(s): Friday, 4/1 2:00 PM to Friday, 4/1 3:00 PM
  • Speaker: Prof. Shane Larson
  • Host: Ho-Ung Yee
  • Campus Address: 2214 SES (Science and Engineering South)

Title: Gravity has a story to tell: LIGO's first gravitational wave detection

In 1916, Einstein used his newly minted description of gravity – general relativity -- to make a remarkable prediction about the Cosmos: gravity should warp the fabric of the Universe, and that warpage should move from one place to another. This new phenomenon was called "gravitational waves." For the next 40 years, physicists grappled with the new idea, trying to understand its implications and whether or not it was even possible to detect these waves. It then took another 60 years to build an experiment capable of detecting these faint ripples of gravity.
On 14 September 2015, the LIGO observatories in Washington and Louisiana made good on Einstein's century old predication. In the early morning hours, a loud gravitational wave signal came booming out of the sky, triggering both the detectors.  Through a concerted month long effort to analyze and recheck the data, the thousands of scientists working on LIGO concluded they had detected the first gravitational waves from space. The source was the merger of two black holes, heavier than expected, 1.3 billion lightyears from Earth.
In this chat, we'll talk about this momentous discovery --- what LIGO saw, what it taught us about the Universe, and what the future holds in store for us now.