Allan Adams: What the discovery of gravitational waves means
Allan Adams is a theoretical physicist working at the intersection of fluid dynamics, quantum field theory and string theory. Full bio
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their energy in light.
into the fabric of space and time itself,
in gravitational waves.
of the timescale at work here.
and even -- God save us -- the Internet.
and Ronald Drever at Caltech --
for the gravitational waves
that they were brilliant nuts
decided to fund their crazy idea.
a huge expansion in its accuracy,
in its detection ability.
a few lingering details.
had gone live,
from those colliding black holes
There's two moments in my life
to my father when he was terminally ill.
of my career, basically.
it's no longer science fiction! (Laughs)
and collaborator, Scott Hughes,
gravitational waves from black holes
on observatories like LIGO,
what I mean by a gravitational wave.
of general relativity
in their classes on general relativity.
it stretches and expands."
they're preposterously weak.
on September 14 --
stretched and compressed
the average person
the LIGO people were nuts.
long -- and that's already crazy --
the length of those detectors
of the radius of the nucleus
of his classic text on gravity,
for gravitational waves as follows:
to be surmounted
of a broad lay public,
acts like an ear
than the things around you,
or a map of the things around you,
coming from different spots
that can be up to 50 feet long.
impossible -- to make an image
to listen for features like pitch
of gravitational waves.
of things out in the Universe.
of those waves,
that those waves are telling.
are in the audio band.
into pressure waves and air, into sound,
the Universe speaking to us.
just in this way,
of two black holes,
an awful lot of time thinking about.
very rapidly, I have that same chirp,
imprinted on this waveform.
going to live in my memory,
that is the sound of --
each of about 30 solar masses,
in your blender.
to think about what that means.
in the Universe,
100 times per second
to observe the Universe
that we can't see --
stars explode in supernovae.
about the Universe from them.
physics happens in the core,
thousands of kilometers
it's opaque to light.
as if it were glass --
to be able to explore
is obscured by its own afterglow.
all the way back to the beginning.
are things out there
discover by listening.
in that very first event,
members of the LIGO collaboration,
addressing exactly that:
which produce the black holes
that are old, from prehistoric times,
the dinosaur bones
a whole nother angle
and in the end, of course,
to build exquisite detectors
new observatories --
than listening to the Big Bang itself?
ABOUT THE SPEAKERAllan Adams - Theoretical physicist
Allan Adams is a theoretical physicist working at the intersection of fluid dynamics, quantum field theory and string theory.
Why you should listen
Allan Adams is a theoretical physicist working at the intersection of fluid dynamics, quantum field theory and string theory. His research in theoretical physics focuses on string theory both as a model of quantum gravity and as a strong-coupling description of non-gravitational systems.
Like water, string theory enjoys many distinct phases in which the low-energy phenomena take qualitatively different forms. In its most familiar phases, string theory reduces to a perturbative theory of quantum gravity. These phases are useful for studying, for example, the resolution of singularities in classical gravity, or the set of possibilities for the geometry and fields of spacetime. Along these lines, Adams is particularly interested in microscopic quantization of flux vacua, and in the search for constraints on low-energy physics derived from consistency of the stringy UV completion.In other phases, when the gravitational interactions become strong and a smooth spacetime geometry ceases to be a good approximation, a more convenient description of string theory may be given in terms of a weakly-coupled non-gravitational quantum field theory. Remarkably, these two descriptions—with and without gravity—appear to be completely equivalent, with one remaining weakly-coupled when its dual is strongly interacting. This equivalence, known as gauge-gravity duality, allows us to study strongly-coupled string and quantum field theories by studying perturbative features of their weakly-coupled duals. Gauge-gravity duals have already led to interesting predictions for the quark-gluon plasma studied at RHIC. A major focus of Adams's present research is to use such dualities to find weakly-coupled descriptions of strongly-interacting condensed matter systems which can be realized in the lab.
Allan Adams | Speaker | TED.com