Gravitational waves and spacetime

Date & time: 4.30–6.30pm 7 February 2017, AEST (Australian Eastern Standard Time)
Location: The Shine Dome ,15 Gordon Street  Acton, ACT
Speakers: Professor Dean Rickles

2016 saw the first ever detection of gravitational waves, 100 years after their initial theoretical prediction by Einstein and following 50 years of arduous experimental effort.

However, even theoretically, the existence of gravitational waves was a controversial matter for much of the last century.

Ultimately, the matter was settled (by the LIGO collaboration) by detecting the ripples created by colliding black holes (themselves highly controversial objects for much of the last century).

The first detection of gravitational waves is, then, tightly bound up with the first observation of colliding (and merging) black holes.

This opens up the possibility of a new era of physics, astronomy and cosmology in which the enormous energies released from such collisions, and the gravitational waves they generate, can be used as a new space-based laboratory probing aspects of the universe previously out of bounds.

Professor Rickles will offer an historical survey of some of the early controversies, show how the new developments settle these, and consider new problems and prospects thrown up in the aftermath.


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