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Distinguished Science Lecture Series Archives

Black Holes Sing: Black Holes, Their Orbits & Gravitational Waves

Dr. Janna Levin

Black Holes are the ultimate death state of very massive stars. Collapsing under their own weight, the dead cores will curve spacetime so strongly that not even light can escape. Black holes emit no light and reflect no light. They are dark against a dark sky and effectively invisible. When two black holes move in orbit around each other, they churn up the spacetime around them, emanating waves in the fabric of space itself. These waves are like the waves on a drum and are closest in analogy to sound waves: the black holes are singing. Gravitational waves move through the universe, and us, all the time squeezing and stretching space but so weakly that we don’t notice. Monumental experiments built on Earth and planned for space aim to record the extraordinary sounds of black hole orbits.

This lecture by the theoretical physicist, Dr. Janna Levin (Barnard College of Columbia University) combines her work from her first book, How the Universe Got its Spots (a nonfiction work of science) with her second book, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines (a novel that won the prestigious PEN/Bingham Fellowship Prize for Writers and the MEA Mary Shelley Award for Outstanding Fictional Work).

Book signing to follow the lecture.

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