August 19, 2009

Gravitational Echoes of the Birth of the Universe

On Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will host a live webcast featuring University of Minnesota Physicist Vuk Mandic, who is a lead author of an upcoming paper in the journal Nature that significantly advances scientific understanding of the early evolution of the universe. Mandic is cochair of the Stochastic Working Group of the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) Scientific Collaboration (LSC). Founded in 1997, the LSC seeks to directly detect gravitational waves, use them to explore the fundamental physics of gravity, and develop the emerging field of gravitational wave science as a tool of astronomical discovery. This is the first major paper to result from LIGO research on the early universe.

"Gravitational waves are the only way to directly probe the universe at the moment of its birth; they\'re absolutely unique in that regard. We simply can\'t get this information from any other type of astronomy. This is what makes this result in particular, and gravitational-wave astronomy in general, so exciting," says David Reitze, a professor of physics at the University of Florida and spokesperson for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

"This paper is exciting," said Beverly Berger, NSF program manager for gravitational physics. LIGO is making real astronomical measurements and looking at the universe in a completely new way."

What:    Webcast describing findings in paper to be published in Nature advancing our understanding of the early evolution of the universe.
When:    Aug. 19, 2009, 2 p.m. EDT.
Where:    Media may participate in the webcast by phone at 888-946-6309 or on the web at http://www.science360.gov/live. Contact [email protected] to obtain a username and passcode required to participate. A video recording of the press conference will be posted on the NSF Web site after the webcast.
Who:    Vuk Mandic (of the University of Minnesota), cochair of the Stochastic Working Group of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration
Funded by the National Science Foundation, LSC was designed and is operated by Caltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is currently made up of almost 700 scientists from over 60 institutions and 11 countries worldwide.


Image 1: Aerial of the LIGO Livingston site. Credit: LIGO Scientific Collaboration

Image 2: Aerial of the LIGO Hanford site. Credit: LIGO Scientific Collaboration


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