June 22, 2001

DDLS spotlights ways to explore the universe using laser interferometer

Barry Barish, professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology, will talk about the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, as part of the Director’s Distinguished Lecturer series.

The talk begins at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 26, in the Bldg. 123 auditorium. Director Bruce Tarter invites all employees to attend.

The goal of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is to detect gravitational waves and then to use them as a new tool to explore and study the universe.

Barish, director of LIGO, says that general relativity predicts the emission of gravitational waves whenever compact concentrations of energy change shape.

According to Barish, this could occur in a variety of astrophysical phenomena, like the fusing of binary systems, such as a pair of neutron stars or black holes. This warpage of space-time increases through space at the speed of light and, in principle, can be directly detected on the Earth’s surface.

Barish will discuss the sources of gravitational waves and techniques for detection, as well as the status and prospects for the LIGO project.

Barish has carried out research at major high energy physics facilities — Brookhaven National Laboratory, Fermilab, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Cornell and at Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy. In 1994, Barish became the principal investigator of the LIGO project.

He was named the Maxine and Ronald Linde Professor of Physics in 1991. Barish is a fellow of the American Physical Society.
The lecture will be broadcast on Lab Channel 2 Thursday, July 5, at 10 a.m., noon, 2, 4, and 8 p.m., and Friday, July 6, at 4 a.m.