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Astronomy’s New Messengers: Listening to the Universe with Gravitational Waves

Friday, June 4, 2010
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

Marcia Bartusiak joins Kip Thorne, Laura Danly and Rainer Weiss to demonstrate how two observatories on opposite sides of the country, called LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory), may open a new window on observing the cosmos—one based not in light but in gravity. Scientists have embarked on this joint experiment, seeking whispers of far-away violence—like the collision between distant black holes—rippling through the cosmos. It’s taken nearly a century, but technology has finally caught up to Einstein’s brilliance. His 1916 General Theory of Relativity predicted the existence of gravitational waves—undulations in the very fabric of space and time—and LIGO researchers are now poised to detect them.

Moderator

Marcia BartusiakAuthor, Journalist

Marcia Bartusiak is an author, journalist, and Professor of the Practice of the Graduate Program in Science Writing at MIT. She writes about the fields of astronomy and physics. Bartusiak has been published in National Geographic, Discover, Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, Science, Popular Science, and more.

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Participants

Andrea LommenAstrophysicist

Andrea Lommen has been a pioneer in detecting gravitational waves with pulsars. Dr. Lommen’s research, and that of the team she leads, has taken theoretical concepts and transformed them into experimental practice.

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Kip S. ThorneTheoretical Physicist

Kip Thorne is the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus, at Caltech. He was the co-founder (with Rai Weiss and Ron Drever) of the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) Project and he chaired the steering committee that led LIGO in its earliest years.

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Laura DanlyCurator, Astronomer

Laura Danly is a spectroscopist specializing in ultraviolet observations from space satellites. Her research focuses on the large-scale distribution and dynamics of the interstellar medium and its relationship to galaxy evolution.

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Rai WeissPhysicist

Rai Weiss is known for his pioneering measurements of the spectrum of the cosmic microwave background radiation and his seminal leadership in the conception, design and operation of the laser interferometer gravitational wave detector; remarkable scientific achievements recognized by his roles as a co-founder and an intellectual leader of both the COBE Project and LIGO.

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