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Gravitational Wave discussion set for first Fall Science Cafe

The origins of the universe is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Michael Turner, the Bruce V. and Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor of Physical Cosmology and director of the Kavil Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago, will discuss “Einstein’s Outrageous Universe: Gravitational Waves, Black Holes and the Big Bang” at the fall semester’s first meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe.

Set for 6 p.m. Sept. 13 at Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd., the event is free and open to the public.

“Einstein changed the way we think about the universe,” Turner said. “In this presentation, I will discuss three of the most timely and interesting things in our universe: gravitational waves, the big discovery of this year; black holes, they are everywhere; and the beginning of the universe, the big bang.”

Turner’s 30-minute presentation will include discussion about the biggest science news story of the year, the discovery of gravitational waves — or ripples in space-time — that was announced in February by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration. UM is an institutional member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and was among the major contributors to the LIGO discovery.

“They came from two massive black holes that merged a billion years ago and spectacularly verified a major prediction of Einstein’s theory,” he said. “The detection involved measuring the distance between two mirrors to a precision of one-thousandth the size of the proton!”

Turner’s appearance is part of the Harlow Shapley Visiting Lectureship Program of the American Astronomical Society, a program of two-day visits by professional astronomers who bring the excitement of modern astronomy and astrophysics to colleges of all types.

Turner’s appearance should provide a fascinating look at cutting-edge research, said Luca Bombelli, chair and professor of physics and astronomy.

“Dr. Turner is one of the most prominent theoretical astrophysicists and cosmologists in the U.S.,” Bombelli said. “Among his many honors, he has served as chair of the Physics Section of the National Academy of Sciences, led the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the National Science Foundation and is a past president of the American Physical Society.”