Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Nobel Prize winner to speak on Einstein, black holes, and gravitational waves

Queen’s public lecture series hosts Nobel laureate to discuss the complex mysteries of the universe.

Illustration of a black hole (Credit: NSF LIGO Sonoma State University)
Illustration of a black hole (Credit: NSF LIGO Sonoma State University)

On Monday, March 5, the Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre (CPARC) and the Queen’s Department of Physics will host Barry Barish, co-winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics, for a talk entitled Einstein, Black Holes, and Gravitational Waves. It will mark the first instalment of the new George & Maureen Ewan Public Lecture Series – a program designed to bring world-class speakers to Queen's to discuss their research with students, faculty, and the broader Kingston community.

Dr. Barish, professor emeritus of physics at the California Institute of Technology, was recognized by the Nobel Committee for his decisive contributions to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) and the observation of gravitational waves – disturbances in the fabric of space-time first predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916.

“We’re very excited to host Dr. Barish as the inaugural guest speaker of the George & Maureen Ewan Public Lecture Series,” says Tony Noble, Scientific Director, CPARC. “It will be wonderful to have another Nobel laureate in physics speaking on campus as it further compliments all of the incredible work in astro- and particle physics taking place at Queen's and with our research partners across the country.”

Queen’s Professor Emeritus Art McDonald was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2015 for the discovery that neutrinos – subatomic particles so tiny they are even difficult to detect – have mass.

Dr. Barish will be sharing the story of how gravitational waves were first theorized and about how a team decided to put the theory to the test by building the LIGO detector. He will also discuss the major academic strides that have been made since observing them, and what the future may hold for this area of study – and, more importantly, what it all means for our understanding of the universe.

“It took decades of study and literally thousands of scientists working together before gravitational waves were observed and became more than just a grand idea,” says Nathalie Ouellette, Education and Outreach Officer, CPARC. “Dr. Barish has been a crucial part of this historic effort and his contributions have helped turn the study of gravitational waves into one of the most cutting-edge fields in the physics world. His talk will be a really unique opportunity for the people of Kingston to hear from one of the field's leading minds.”

The George & Maureen Ewan Public Lecture Series is made possible by a donation of $100,000 by Queen's Professor Emeritus George Ewan and his wife, Maureen. Dr. Ewan, along with an international team of colleagues, founded the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), a subterranean neutrino observation facility located in a Sudbury, Ontario nickel mine. This facility enabled Dr. McDonald's Nobel-winning neutrino research, a years-long experiment conducted in collaboration with Dr. Ewan and other leading scientists.

With his work recognized at the highest level, the 90-year-old Dr. Ewan now pushes ahead with the goal of influencing the next generation of scientists at Queen’s.

“It is vital that we scientists make our work accessible to the general public,” said Dr. Ewan when the lecture series was first announced. “My dream is to have them come to Queen’s to give lectures on the state of their experiments and especially about their results, and to do it in a way that people without PhDs can understand.”

Attendees on March 5 will have a chance to ask questions of Dr. Barish following his lecture. Doors at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts will open at 6:30 p.m. and the talk will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are free and attendees are encouraged to register in advance.