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Jon Ziprick Colloquium

Fri. Nov. 24 12:30 PM - Fri. Nov. 24 01:20 PM
Location: 1L11

Jon Ziprick, Postdoctural fellow at UWinnipeg and UManitoba

Gravitational waves: a new window to the universe

We live in an exciting time for research in gravity! Gravitational waves (GWs), ripples in spacetime predicted by Einstein in 1916, have finally been detected experimentally. The first detection in February, 2016 was made by LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory), and as of today LIGO has five detections in total with the most recent two being confirmed by the Virgo interferometer. This monumental achievement has earned Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne, three of the main contributors to this research, this year's Nobel prize in physics.

Gravitational waves are everywhere but vanishingly small. In order to have GWs large enough for detection, incredibly massive objects such as black holes or neutron stars must orbit each other at speeds comparable to that of light. These are fascinating objects and GWs provide invaluable insight into their nature. In addition, just as radio waves allow us to `see' objects that are invisible to our eyes, GWs allow us to look out into the universe to observe phenomena which have been hidden until now.

In this talk we give a non-technical discussion of these strange waves in spacetime and how they are detected. We discuss the incredible feat of engineering in building devices that can detect changes in length of 1/10,000th the width of a proton, between mirrors which are 4km apart. We also explore the future of gravitational wave astronomy, and how this fits in with research currently being done at the University of Winnipeg.