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‘Interstellar’ information

2017 Nobel Prize winner Thorne to lecture Tuesday

Interstellar graphic

The Lamar University Academic Lecture Series presents “Interstellar,” a talk by Kip Thorne, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics. The free public event will be hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences, Oct. 16, from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the University Theatre.

A Q&A session with Thorne will precede the talk from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Landes Auditorium in the Galloway Building.

The event has been rescheduled from spring 2018.

A showing of the movie “Interstellar,” for which Thorne was a consultant, will be held Oct. 12 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Price Lecture Room in the John Gray Center.

“He is going to give a talk on the movie “Interstellar” and the science of it,” Philip Cole, professor and chair of the department of physics, said in a previous interview. “He was a science editor for this movie, which came out in 2014, one year before the discovery of gravitational waves came out.”thorne

To accompany Christopher Nolan’s film, Thorne has written “The Science of Interstellar,” which reveals that the movie’s jaw-dropping events and never-before-attempted visuals are grounded in real science. Thorne introduced wormholes into modern science fiction and movies through his work on Carl Sagan’s novel and film “Contact,” and is also the author of the bestselling book, “Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy.”

  Thorne is among the world’s most influential scientists and co-founder of the billion-dollar Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory project, a collaboration of more than 1,000 researchers from more than 20 countries. He and his team made history by proving the direct existence of gravitational waves, a discovery that won him the Nobel Prize and earned him a place on TIME Magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People.

“In 1915, Albert Einstein developed the general theory of relativity,” Cole said. “This is basically how space time operates with gravitational fields — mass makes big bending of spacetime. It was a big idea which broke away from Estonian physics. It was groundbreaking and complicated, but people saw some predictions and it became beautiful. There was a prediction called gravitational waves. This basically says that the space-time fabric of the universe can ripple and could be measured, a very small thing, hard to detect.”

Gravitational waves spread at the speed of light, filling the universe, as Albert Einstein described in his general theory of relativity.

“People thought that (the waves were) impossible to detect at first, until the early to mid 60s,” Cole said. “In 1983, Kip Thorne with two colleagues, took forward an idea to the National Science Foundation and they started building this detector, called the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).”

The LIGO project used a pair of gigantic laser interferometers to measure a change thousands of times smaller than the diameter of the proton, as the gravitational wave passed the Earth.

“(The laser) was built and they did two runs with them,” Cole said. “It was the biggest project the Science Foundation had ever done. There is one in Livingston, La. about 200 miles from Beaumont and there is one in Hanford, Wa.”

Thorne and his students also invented quantum non-demolition technology to control the quantum behavior of human-sized objects, and they pioneered the modern theory of wormholes and time travel.

Interstellar_DVD_Keyart_SalesViewIn his decades-long career, Thorne has personally trained many of today’s world leaders in research on black holes and other relativistic phenomena. In September 2015, LIGO helped open a radically new window into the universe, based on the discovery of ripples in the fabric of space time called gravitational waves — part of Einstein’s theory of relativity. For this discovery, he and his collaborators were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics, the three-million-dollar Breakthrough Prize for Fundamental Physics, the $500,000 Gruber Prize in Cosmology, the 1.2 million Shaw Prize in Astronomy, and the one million Kavli Prize in astrophysics.

  The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 to Thorne, along with collaborators Barry Barish and Rainer Weiss, for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves on Sept. 14, 2015, when the universe’s gravitational waves were observed for the very first time.

The waves, which were predicted by Albert Einstein a hundred years ago but thought impossible to measure, came from a collision between two black holes. It took 1.3 billion years for the waves to arrive at the LIGO detector in the U.S.

Thorne was elected to both the US National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences, and for his science accomplishments, he has been awarded the Swiss Albert Einstein Medal and the UNESCO Niels Bohr Gold Medal. He is the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus at Caltech.

Story by Cassandra Jenkins, UP editor

Category: News