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Gravitational Wave Astronomy, A New Way to Explore the Universe

Rainer Weiss, MIT and LIGO Project
Tuesday, October 25, 2016 - 7:30pm
Kane Hall 130

UPDATE: Professor Rainer Weiss was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics.

In February 2016, scientists announced a groundbreaking discovery, the first direct detection of gravitational waves reaching the Earth, using an instrument known as LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory). The discovery confirmed a prediction first proposed by Albert Einstein in his 1916 paper on applications of general relativity after his famous paper introducing his new theory of gravity in 1915.

The recent observations of gravitational waves from the cataclysmic merger of binary black holes over a billion light years away from Earth open a new window onto the universe and allow the study of general relativity in the limit of extreme gravitational fields.

For Dr. Rainer Weiss, one of the founders of LIGO, the discovery was 50 years in the making. His own work on the topic began as a classroom exercise in a general relativity course  given at MIT in 1967.  Dr. Weiss will speak to the UW community about the fascinating history of the gravitational waves proposed by Einstein and of the results of The LIGO Project, as well as a vision for the future of gravitational wave astronomy. A live broadcast of his walk will be available through our partners at UW Video on their UW channel.

Biography: Dr. Weiss is an emeritus professor in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he completed both his undergraduate and doctorate degrees. Dr. Weiss previously served as an assistant physics professor at Tufts University and has been an adjunct professor at Louisiana State University since 2001.

Dr. Weiss is known for his pioneering measurements of the spectrum of the cosmic microwave background radiation, his inventions of the monolithic silicon bolometer and the laser interferometer gravitational wave detector and for his roles as 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, as well as the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the National Space Club Science Award, and the Einstein Prize of the American Physical Society.

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