Songs from the Stellar Graveyard: Probing the Cosmos in Gravitational Waves

Monday, April 16, 2018
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM (ET)
Event Type
Distinguished Visitors Program

Distinguished Visitor Shane L. Larson, associate director, Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics, Northwestern University

Virtually everything we know about the Universe has been discovered from the study of photons --- light in all its myriad forms from radio waves, to visible light, to x-rays and beyond. At the dawn of the 21st century, advanced technology is providing access to the Cosmos through detection of ripples in the fabric of spacetime itself. These ripples in spacetime, called gravitational waves, carry information not in the form of light or particles, but in the form of gravity itself. Over the past two years, the first gravitational wave signals from the Cosmos have been detected here on Earth, revealing a dynamic and energetic Universe that has previously only been speculated about. Gravitational wave observations have revealed black holes dancing a death spiral billions of lightyears from Earth, and neutron stars ripping themselves apart in a titanic burst of light and gravitational energy. This talk will explore what gravitational waves are and how we measure them, and what we are learning from their detection. Gravity has a story to tell, and in this talk, we'll explore some of discoveries are making by listening.

Shane Larson is a research associate professor of physics at Northwestern University, where he is the Associate Director of CIERA (Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics). He works in the field of gravitational wave astrophysics, specializing in studies of compact stars, binaries, and the galaxy. He works in gravitational wave astronomy with both the ground-based LIGO project, and the future space-based detector LISA. Shane grew up in eastern Oregon, and was an undergraduate at Oregon State University where he received his B.S. in Physics in 1991. He received a Ph.D. in theoretical physics (1999) from Montana State University. He is an award winning teacher, and a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He currently lives in the Chicago area with his wife, daughter and cats. He contributes regularly to a public science blog at, and tweets with the handle @sciencejedi.

Tea at 4:15 p.m.

Sponsored by the Department of Physics in conjunction with the Distinguished Visitors Program

Get Directions
Event Date
Event Time