Seminar Series

Public Lecture: Black holes making waves around the Universe


Professor David Wiltshire


Physics and Astronomy Dept, UC

Time & Place

Mon, 07 Mar 2016 19:30:00 NZDT in Lecture theatre C1, University of Canterbury, Christchurch

All are welcome


On 14 September 2015 the two LIGO detectors measured gravitational waves for the first time ever, produced by the collision of two black holes 1.3 billion light years away. This opens a new era of astronomy, a window on things we cannot observe by other means. It vindicates Einstein's 100 year old prediction of gravitational waves, and the rotating black hole  solution of Einstein's equations discovered in 1963 by New Zealander Roy Kerr.

In measuring distance changes a thousandth the size of a proton, this is also the most sensitive measurement ever achieved by humankind. It represents the  culmination of 4 decades of work by thousands of experimental physicists, engineers, mathematicians, numerical modellers and astronomers, who together have had to overcome challenges in fields as diverse as seismology and  fundamental quantum optics. Last December, the LISA pathfinder satellite was launched, the first step in taking gravitational wave detection to  space. This lecture will reflect on what has been achieved, the technological spin-offs and challenges ahead, and what we might discover in the new age of astronomy ahead.

Bio: Following undergraduate study at the University of Canterbury, David Wiltshire obtained his PhD in the research group of Stephen Hawking at the University of Cambridge in the mid 1980s. At the University of Adelaide in the 1990s, and as President of the Australasian Society of General Relativity and Gravitation (2009-2013) he has worked closely with the Australian gravitational wave community. His research interests are in theoretical cosmology, black holes and quantum gravity. He co-edited the monograph "The Kerr Spacetime: Rotating Black Holes in General Relativity" (Cambridge University Press, 2009). He is a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Canterbury.