Gravitational waves: turning on the soundtrack to the Universe

5:30pm - 7:00pm / Tuesday 24th April 2018 / Venue: Leggate theatre Victoria Gallery & Museum
Type: Lecture / Category: Public / Series: Science and Society Lecture Series 2018
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  • Admission: Free
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The last two years have seen our ability to study our Universe change forever. For the first time we have been able to not only see the stars in the heavens, but to feel the very vibrations of the fabric of space-time produced when stars collide. In February 2016 the scientists of the international LIGO and Virgo collaborations announced the first detection of gravitational waves - tiny gravitational fluctuations sensed using instruments here on the Earth, but produced around 1.3 billion years ago far out in the cosmos when two dead stars - in this case 'black-holes' spiralled in and merged. The existence of such gravitational waves was first predicted by Einstein as part of his
'General Theory of Relativity' in 1916.

In the decades between then and now, searches for such signals have been the focus of scientists around the globe, including key work here in the UK.
This lecture will discuss the nature of gravitational waves, the astrophysical events that can produce them, the technology of gravitational wave observatories and the recent results in this new field leading to the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2017 for the detection of gravitational waves: turning on the soundtrack to the Universe.

Professor Sheila Rowan is Director of the Institute for Gravitational Research, University of Glasgow, a position she has held since 2009. She received an MBE in 2011.
Sheila’s research is targeted at developing optical materials for use in gravitational wave detectors. Her work formed part of the "Advanced LIGO" detector upgrades, carried out between 2010 and 2015, that contributed to one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs of this century: the first detection of gravitational waves announced in
February 2016. This resulted in a share of the 2016 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her and the members of her team in
Glasgow. Professor Rowan was appointed Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland in June 2016.

(Photo credit: Suzane Heffron)