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Physics Department Colloquium, December 6, 2016 - Leo Rodriguez, Assumption College

Tuesday, December 06, 2016
4:00 pm


Floor/Room #: 
OH 109

Title: Gravitational Waves Our New Eye on The Universe


Einstein proposed his theory of gravity (general relativity) just over a hundred years ago. Since its introduction in 1916, general relativity has dominated our understanding of solar system, galactic and cosmological dynamics with great precision. There are only a hand full of scenarios where general relativity has been met with theoretical or experimental difficulties. Those scenarios include dark matter/energy, the quantum structure of spacetime and up until recently; gravitational waves. Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves from his theory over a hundred years ago, but expressed little hope of ever detecting them, due to their feeble nature. The landscape of general relativity and how we observe the universe changed forever on September 14th and December 26th of 2015, when the first ever gravitational wave signals where detected by the several decade long LIGO and VIRGO ground based gravitational wave observatories collaboration. Not only vindicating another seminal prediction of Einstein's, but ushering in a new era in astrophysics and observational astronomy.

In this talk we will introduce the current state of our understanding of the universe on cosmological scales and why our ability to observe the night sky with an entirely new species of waveform is paradigm shifting. Furthermore, we will discuss and introduce the nature of gravity, how Einstein discovered the geometrodynamical nature of spacetime and how his gravitational waves arises within it. We will conclude with a technical discussion of the observed gravitational waves, which originated from two decaying binary black hole pairs. The discussion will be aimed at the general relativistic novice, with a basic familiarly of Maxwell's electrodynamics.