• Nov 22 2010

    Lectures to be presented by Prof Kip Thorne, Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics Emeritus, California Institute of Technology, during his STIAS Fellowship in November 2010

    Public Lecture at the Wallenberg Research Centre Auditorium, STIAS, Marais Street, Stellenbosch
    18:00, Thu 18 November 2010

    The Warped Side of our Universe -
    From the Big Bang to Black Holes and Gravitational Waves

    There is a Warped Side to our Universe: objects and phenomena that are made from warped space and warped time. Three examples are black holes, the big bang in which our Universe was born, and ripples in the fabric of space-time, called gravitational waves. Thorne will describe the Warped Side of our Universe and the quest to probe it theoretically using computer simulations, and observationally using gravitational waves.

    It is essential that anybody planning to attend this public lecture inform Maryke Hunter-Hüsselmann from Stellenbosch University Research Development beforehand at 021 808 4623 or mh3@sun.ac.za

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    NITheP Seminar, NITheP Seminar Room:
    15:00, Mon 22 Nov 2010

    Gravitational-Wave Observatories, and the Quantum Mechanics of Human-Sized Objects

    The gravitational-wave window onto the universe will likely be opened, in the coming decade, in four different frequency bands. Thorne will briefly describe the astrophysical motivations for the current large effort to open this window, and will then discuss in the various technologies and techniques that underlie that effort, with special emphasis on LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, which he co-founded. Thorne will also describe plans for using LIGO technology to carry out quantum mechanics experiments on human-sized objects, including creating quantum correlations between 40kg mirrors 4km apart, and putting them into Schrodinger-cat states.

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    Lecture at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS)
    11:00, Wed 24 November 2010 (date fixed; time and venue tbc by Robert De Mello Koch, Barry Green)

    Black Holes, Wormholes, and Spacetime Singularities

    From general relativity plus astronomical observations, we conclude that black holes almost certainly exist in our universe, as do spacetime singularities (regions where space and time are so strongly warped that the laws of physics as we know them fail); and there might also exist wormholes (topological handles in the structure of space). Thorne will describe our current theoretical understanding of black holes, wormholes and spacetime singularities, including recent breakthroughs achieved with the aid of computer simulations.

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    Lecture at University of Cape Town, Cosmology Group
    Thu 25 Nov (time, venue and transport arrangements tbc Peter Dunsby)

    Probing Black Holes with Numerical Simulations and Gravitational-Wave Observations.

    A revolution in our understanding of black holes is underway. In the first phase of this revolution, computer simulations are being used to explore the nonlinear dynamics of curved spacetime triggered by collisions of black holes. In the second phase, gravitational waves will be detected from black-hole collisions, from objects spiraling into black holes, and from black holes tearing apart neutron stars; and rich information will be extracted from the observed waves. Thorne will describe both phases of this revolution, and how they will interact and inform each other.


    Kip Thorne - a short biographical sketch

    Kip Thorne received his B.S. degree from Caltech in 1962 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1965. He returned to Caltech as an Associate professor in 1967 and became Professor of Theoretical Physics in 1970, The William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor in 1981, The Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics in 1991, and The Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus, in 2009. Thorne's research has focused on Einstein's general theory of relativity and on astrophysics, with emphasis on relativistic stars, black holes and especially gravitational waves. He was cofounder (with R. Weiss and R.W.P. Drever) of the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) Project, with which he is still associated. He is a member of the LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) International Science Team.

    Thorne was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1972, the National Academy of Sciences in 1973, and the Russian Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society in 1999. He has been awarded the Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society, the Karl Schwarzschild Medal of the German Astronomical Society, the Albert Einstein Medal of the Albert Einstein Society in Berne, Switzerland, and the Common Wealth Award for Science, and was named California Scientist of the Year in 2004. For his book for nonscientists, Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy (Norton Publishers 1994), Thorne was awarded the American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award, the Phi Beta Kappa Science Writing Award, and the (Russian) Priroda Readers' Choice Award. In 1973 Thorne coauthored the textbook Gravitation, from which most of the present generation of scientists have learned general relativity theory. Fifty-two physicists have received the PhD at Caltech under Thorne's personal mentorship.

    In June 2009 Thorne resigned his Feyman Professorship (becoming the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus) in order to ramp up a new career in writing, movies, and continued scientific research. His principal current writing project is a textbook on classical physics. His principal current movie project is Interstellar, for which he co-authored the story and is executive producer, and Steven Spielberg is the Director.

    Kip Thorne's Fellowship at STIAS is sponsored by a grant from the Donald Gordon Foundation.

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