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"When Black Holes Collide" Scheduled for 11 November at Penn State

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10 October 2001 -- A free public lecture titled "When Black Holes Collide" will be given at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, 11 November, in 100 Thomas Building on the Penn State University Park Campus by Pablo Laguna, professor of astronomy and astrophysics and physics. The talk is the second of the 2001-2002 Friedman public lectures sponsored by the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State, which this year have the theme, "Black Holes and Time Warps."

"A black hole is a region of infinite collapse from which nothing can escape, not even light," explains Jane Charlton, associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics, and the organizer of the lecture series. Most people find this concept hard to imagine. But for Dr. Laguna, even the collisions of two of these immense gravitational concentrations is" all in a day's work."

When describing his upcoming lectures, Laguna jokes, "Those brave enough to watch will witness a movie showing a collision of two black holes before their very eyes." Laguna's research group uses supercomputers to simulate the processes, which takes place in far-off galaxies, according to astrophysicists. "The violent collisions create ripples in the very fabric of space and time," explains Laguna. He is hopeful that these ripples, known as gravitational waves, will be detected by new gravitational-wave detectors that will soon become operational.

Charlton encourages members of the general public and of the university community to attend the 11 November lecture. "The lectures are designed to communicate the fun of thinking about some of the bizarre things that are happening in our universe," she says.

Laguna is a co-investigator and associate director of both the Center for Gravitational Physics and Geometry and the new Center for Gravitational Wave Physics, recently established at Penn State by the National Science Foundation. He has been on the faculty at Penn State since 1992, having received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Texas in 1987. At Penn State, Laguna teaches "Computational Astrophysics" to undergraduate astronomy and astrophysics students in a classroom equipped with a computer for every student. He has also taught general astronomy courses to more than a thousand students.

Remaining lectures in the 2001-2001 Friedman series, scheduled in 100 Thomas Building, include: "Can a Bright Star Find Happiness in the Deadly Embrace of a Black Hole?" by Michael Eracleous of Penn State at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, 24 February; "Back to the Future: Time Travel in Modern Physics" by Sarah Gallagher of Penn State at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, 17 March; and "The Physics of Star Trek" by Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, 7 April.

The "Black Holes and Time Warps" series is hosted by the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and is largely funded by the Ronald M. and Susan J. Friedman Outreach Fund in Astronomy. Friedman is a member of the department's Board of Visitors.

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CONTACT:

Jane Charlton, associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics, 863-6040 or 865-0418

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