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Science and Society | The Discovery of Gravitational Waves: A New Window on the Cosmos

Science and Society | The Discovery of Gravitational Waves: A New Window on the Cosmos



The discovery of gravitational waves came a century after they were predicted by Albert Einstein as a component of his General Theory of Relativity. Einstein predicted  the motion of any body in space would generate waves that can be thought of as the wrinkling of space that travel at the speed of light. The feature that caused the century-long delay in detecting gravitational waves and the confirmation of Einstein’s prediction is the extraordinarily weak nature of these waves as they pervade the universe-unless an observer happens to be near a catastrophic event such as two colliding black holes. Two paired and specialized observatories made the first detection of gravitational waves in 2015. These observatories, called LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatories were first described in the early 1970’s, designed in the 1980’s and became operational in early 2000’s. A sustained effort was required to incrementally improve the sensitivity to enable the first detection which emanated from the collision of two black holes. Since 2015, many other cataclysmic events have been observed with LIGO. These observations have opened a whole new window on observing the universe’s evolution of the universe especially when combined with traditional telescopes that monitor the cosmos across the globe and with satellites that detect short and long wavelengths of light.

Rainer Weiss is an MIT Professor Emeritus and is known for his pioneering measurements of the spectrum of the cosmic microwave background radiation from the “big bang”, and the development laser interferometer gravitational wave (LIGO) detector. He is a co-founder and an intellectual leader of both the COBE (microwave background) Project and the LIGO Project. He has received numerous scientific and group achievement awards from NASA, an MIT excellence in teaching award to name a few. He is the co-winner of the 2017 Physics Nobel Prize with his collaborators at LIGO. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. in physics from MIT.

The library's “Science and Society - Making Sense of the World Around Us” lecture series is co-organized and moderated by Fred Dylla, Executive Director Emeritus of the American Institute of Physics and author of Scientific Journeys, Linda Dylla, former public information officer at the Jefferson Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy, and Colin Norman, the former News Editor at Science.

NOTE: this meeting is being conducted through Zoom. You MUST REGISTER to receive instructions for joining the meeting.

If you have need assistance with registration or getting your Zoom invitation, please email us.

Basic written instructions for using Zoom may be found here and a brief video tutorial may be found here. Closed captioning is available for all our sessions. Information on enabling closed captioning in Zoom may be found here.

This is an online event. Event URL will be sent via registration email.
Tuesday, March 7, 2023 Show more dates
5:00pm - 6:00pm Eastern Time
Lewes Public Library
  Adults     Older Adults  
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