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Features: Faculty Insights


Image (c) Dr Anna N. Żytkow

In May 2017 Professor Kip Thorne (Caltech) gave the 11th annual Andrew Chamblin Memorial Lecture at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics. The lecture, 'LIGO and Beyond - Exploring the Universe with Gravitational Waves', explored the achievement for which Kip Thorne, Rainer Weiss and Barry Barish were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics less than six months later.

Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of space and time predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years ago. After a half century of effort, 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.

In this fascinating and accessible talk, Kip Thorne shared the history of LIGO, its genesis and its discoveries, and outlined the potential of gravitational-wave astronomy in research into 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.


You can read more about LIGO and the detection of gravitational waves in the article Listening for ripples in spacetime, based on both this lecture and an interview with Professor Gabriela González, on Plus, our free online mathematics magazine.