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The promise of gravitational waves with Dr Sue Bowler – online event
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SUMMARY Gravitational waves are a new way of understanding the universe, completely distinct from light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation. They were a theoretical consequence of Albert Einstein's 1915 General Theory of Relativity, his revolutionary new conception of gravity, yet for most of the past century they were considered too infinitesimally small to measure – a theoretical curiosity. But, in the 1970s, physicists worked out not only that they should be detectable but also a way to do it. It took four decades to build an observatory sensitive enough to detect them but in 2015 a worldwide collaboration of more than 1000 scientists and engineers did so. Sue Bowler’s talk will cover what they found, why it was such a challenge and how they did it. She will also discuss how this new field of astrophysics is already changing astronomical ideas.
THE SPEAKER Sue Bowler always wanted to be an astronaut. She watched the Apollo moon landings on tv and assumed that astronauts would soon be walking on the other planets in our solar system. After a short stint working as an astronomer at the Royal Greenwich Observatory at Herstmonceux, Sue went to Cambridge University and discovered geosciences, including plate tectonics. She moved to Leeds University to research the way that thrust faults make orogenic mountain belts, using field examples from Scotland and the Alps. She then ran away to join the circus, becoming New Scientist magazine’s Earth Sciences Editor, commissioning and editing articles on everything out to the heliopause. Sue has been editing science magazines ever since, notably the fellows’ magazine of the Royal Astronomical Society, Astronomy & Geophysics. She also taught for 20 years in the Schools of Earth and Environment and Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds, where she is now a Visiting Research Fellow.
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