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Wrinkles in Time: Colloquia to give understanding of the science of LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory)

The Lamar University Department of Physics will host a colloquium with Anamaria Effler, staff scientist at LIGO in Livingston, Louisiana, on Friday, March 23.

The free public event will be held from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the LU campus in the Archer Physics Building, Room 108.

“Hosting Dr. Anamaria Effler in this colloquium is an excellent opportunity for students, faculty and anyone with an interest in space science and science in general to learn of the incredible work that has led to one of the greatest scientific discoveries of our age,” said Philip Cole, chair of LU’s physics department.

“This colloquium will be excellent preparation for learning from 2017 Nobel Prize winner Kip Thorne when he comes to LU for the Academic Lecture Series on March 28,” Cole said. Thorne is executive producer of Christopher Nolan's blockbuster movie, Interstellar, and co-founder of the billion-dollar LIGO Project. He and his students pioneered the modern theory of wormholes and time travel.

Effler is an expert in the technology that enabled the detection of the disruption in spacetime resulting from a cosmic event of the merging of two black holes 1.3 billion years ago that led to Nobel Prizes for project founders Kip Thorne, Ranier Weiss, and Barry Barish. The event was detected by LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) on September 14, 2015 and announced to the world on February 11, 2016.

In her talk, “The What, Why and How of LIGO: The challenge of gravitational wave detection, Effler will share the development of LIGO, talk about the detection technology, how background noise in the data is filtered out, and how the lasers are able to detect changes in gravitational waves to about 1/10,000th the diameter of a proton (or 10-19 meters).

“I will give a brief introduction as to how gravitational waves arise from the theory of General Relativity and how LIGO came to be the largest project funded solely by the

National Science Foundation,” Effler said of her planned presentation. She will review a few of the signals detected by LIGO and discuss what they mean for astronomy. “We now can see phenomena which were hidden from us before, like the collision and merger of massive black holes.”

The two LIGO instruments “are an engineering work of art, one of the most precise measurements ever devised,” are located in Livingston and Hanford, Washington. Scientists at these facilities work, as much as possible, in conjunction with the French-Italian Virgo detector near Pisa, Italy,” Effler said.

Originally of Arad, Romania, Effler studied at Moise Nicoara College there where she participated in physics Olympiads. She attended California Institute of Technology and earned her Ph.D. from LSU in 2015.