Black Holes & Gravitational Waves: Was Einstein Right?- Saul Teukolsky – 04/08/2022

What are gravitational waves and how are they detected? How did LIGO confirm that space and time are distorted by strong gravity, just as Einstein predicted? Join us to learn these answers and more with one of the foremost researchers in numerical relativity, Dr. Saul Teukolsky! Timestamps below:

00:00 Announcements
06:39 Intro to Black Holes Presentation
08:06 Black Holes Presentation
41:48 Intro to Q&A Panel
44:59 Is there a minimum mass/energy for a black hole?
47:06 How does black hole spin work when it’s a singularity?
49:13 What happens when a person falls into a black hole?
52:32 Does the black hole event horizon change a lot during ringdown?
54:16 Have exo-moons (moons around exoplanets) actually been discovered?
57:37 Will JWST help studies of the cosmic web?
1:01:24 Do we account for black holes in calculating the expansion of the universe?
1:05:03 Can you “fall out” of a black hole? What about “white holes”?
1:09:45 Explain more about the software used to calculate the black hole mergers?
1:12:49 Can observations of moons inform us of the internal structures of their planets?
1:17:26 What led to the breakthrough in the simulations of black holes merging?
1:22:28 Can we learn about the interior of a black hole from passing stars?
1:25:31 Beyond spinning and non-spinning black holes, are there other types?
1:27:49 At what speed to gravitational waves travel? Why?
1:31:25 Can gravitational waves be gravitationally lensed? Can GWs destroy stars?
1:39:24 Can we determine gravitational wave polarization from LIGO alone?
1:42:43 Why does an “Einstein Ring” form instead of a full “Einstein Disk”?
1:44:42 What is the Cosmic Web?
1:48:59 Will JWST be able to detect other life in the universe?
1:52:40 Is our universe inside of a black hole event horizon?
1:57:22 Can gravitational waves reveal information about dark matter?
2:01:35 Concluding Remarks


The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics went to the founders of the LIGO experiment for the detection of gravitational waves from a pair of orbiting black holes. This is one of the most exciting scientific discoveries of the past fifty years. What are gravitational waves and how were they detected? How have Caltech researchers used supercomputers to establish that the waves did in fact come from black holes? How does this experiment confirm that space and time are distorted by strong gravity, just as Einstein predicted? And what exciting discoveries might be just around the corner?


Dr. Saul Teukolsky is senior professor of theoretical astrophysics at both Caltech and Cornell University. Dr. Teukolsky’s research focuses on general relativity, relativistic astrophysics, and computational astrophysics, having helped pioneer the field at the intersection of these topics: numerical relativity. Dr. Teukolsky has worked on naked black holes, exploding neutron stars, relativistic stellar dynamics, and planets around pulsars. His research helped predict the signal of merging black holes observed by the LIGO gravitational wave detectors that eventually earned the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics. In addition to his science, he is one of the authors of the seminal “Numerical Recipes” series of books, foundational works describing many different computational methods for solving a variety of equations and problems arising in engineering and physics. Among his many awards and accolades, Dr. Teukolsky is a member of the National Academy of Science, has been awarded the Dirac Medal by the International Center for Theoretical Physics, and received the Einstein Prize of the American Physical Society.

Dr. Sofia Gallego is a postdoctoral researcher in astrophysics, recently joining Caltech. Her research focuses on the large-scale structure of the universe, especially the gas around and between galaxies, and its connection to galaxy formation and evolution. In addition to being an astronomer, Sofia is a musician, actress, entrepreneur, and lately an avid ultimate frisbee player.

Julie Inglis is a PhD student in planetary sciences at Caltech. She is interested in the atmospheres and formation of extrasolar planets and satellites. She uses computers to simulate the formation of satellites from dust disks around forming planets, as well as direct imaging and spectroscopy techniques to probe the atmospheres of young giant planets at wide separations from their host planets to understand more about the formation processes of these objects. When she steps away from her computer for a break, she enjoys hiking and camping with friends, and writing and art.

Dr. Cameron Hummels is a postdoctoral researcher in theoretical astrophysics at Caltech. He creates supercomputer simulations to study the formation and evolution of galaxies since the Big Bang.

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