Duncan Brown

 

Duncan Brown, Syracuse University

LIGO: Teaching its physics

Gravitational-wave astronomy is an exciting new frontier in 21st century astronomy and physics. Gravitational-wave observatories, such as LIGO, are targeting some of the most violent processes in the universe: the collision of black holes, exploding stars and even the big bang itself. These astrophysical events capture the interest of physics majors and non-majors alike. Interferometric gravitational-wave detectors are instruments of mind-boggling sensitivity: their displacement sensitivity is comparable to measuring the distance to the nearest star to a few tens of microns. Both the technologies used in the detectors and the astrophysics of LIGO's sources are rich with opportunities for teaching undergraduate physics. I will present some examples from gravitational-wave astrophysics and experiment.