About 100 years ago Albert Einstein—based on his theory of general relativity–predicted the existence of gravitational waves, but thought the waves too small to measure.

 Confirmation of their existence was indirect or mathematical until 2015 when the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, was used to detect collision of two black holes nearly 1.3 billion light years away.  Based on this dramatic verification of Einstein’s theory, three physicists, Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne, and Barry Barish, earned the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics for their collaboration in creating LIGO — over 30 years in the making.  

In August of this year, LIGO was used to detect the collision of two neutron stars (dense cores of dead stars) that the executive director of LIGO called “the greatest fireworks show in the universe.”  This titanic impact, known as a kilonova, was picked up as a 100-second chirp by a LIGO antenna.  

All of this may seem from a galaxy far, far away, but a presentation on this hottest of hot science will be coming to Tallahassee via the Lannutti Memorial Lectures, a collaboration between the Florida State University Department of Physics and the Tallahassee Scientific Society (TSS), whose mission is to promote and disseminate knowledge of science and technology in the Tallahassee area.  

 

 

The memorial lecture — in its 20th anniversary — is in honor of Joseph Lannutti, a respected and innovative physicist in the FSU Department of Physics, who was also a member of the TSS Board of Directors.  In 1998…