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.
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, World Book Encyclopedia, Smithsonian, and Technology Review. She is a regular contributor to Natural History magazine. Bartusiak has twice won the American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award – in 2001 for Einstein’s Unfinished Symphony and in 1982 for Discover Magazine, “The Ultimate Timepiece”.
Andrea Lommen has been a pioneer in detecting gravitational waves with pulsars. While the idea of using pulsars to detect gravitational waves has been around for more than 30 years, Dr. Lommen’s research, and that of the team she leads, has taken theoretical concepts and transformed them into experimental practice.
Dr. Lommen is chair of the North American Nanohertz Observatory of Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav), a consortium of astronomers from all over the U.S. and Canada, committed to studying the gravitational wave universe using pulsar timing arrays. Recently the National Science Foundation awarded her a five-year prestigious Career Award for her work in detecting gravitational waves with pulsars.
At Franklin and Marshall College, where she is an associate professor of Astrophysics, she is committed to creating the first generation of gravitational wave astrophysicists, those whose careers will mature after the first detection of gravitational waves, and who will spend their time “seeing” the gravitational wave universe.
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. Dr. Danly is the co-author of Chaos to Cosmos: A Space Odyssey (2003.) Observant Star Trek: Enterprise fans may recognize her as the author of the fictional The Cosmos A to Z, “the essential guide to space, the final frontier!” that encouraged Enterprise Captain Jonathan Archer to join Starfleet. As the Curator of Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California, Dr. Danly develops and implements all of the Observatory’s astronomical, educational, theatrical, gallery, and telescope programs. While at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science previously, she developed Space Odyssey, a hands-on exhibit that allows young people to explore the cosmos, make their own discoveries and walk away dazzled by the wonder of it all.
Rai Weiss is a Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Dr. 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 (microwave background) Project and LIGO (gravitational-wave detection). He has received numerous scientific and group achievement awards from NASA, an MIT Excellence in Teaching Award, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the Medaille de lADION Observatoire de Nice, the Gruber Cosmology Prize, and the Einstein Prize of the American Physical Society. Dr. Weiss is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society and The American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. in physics from MIT.