Finding Black Holes with Lasers

(Public talk at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, 18.02.2013)

Andreas Freise

February 2013

In February 2013 I was invited by the Institute of Physics to give a lecture in the famous lecture theatre of the Royal Institution of Great Britain as part of their Physics in Perspective series. I was to expect about 400 students and teachers from schools across the country.

I decided to present the concept of Big Science and how students can engage with it, using my own story and experience from my career in the various gravitational wave projects. And, of course, I made good use of the outreach material created in our Gravitational Wave group in Birmingham.

It has been a great experience to have such a large and enthusiastic audience; that said, the lecture theatre and its glaring stage lights can be intimidating! The youtube video below shows a recording of my talk Finding Black Holes with Lasers. The slides (with some sound effects removed and reduced image quality) are available for download as a pdf file:
Freise_Finding_Black_Holes_with_Lasers_180213_reduced.pdf [2.7 MB].

In addition to the slides shown above, I demonstrated aspects of how a gravitational wave detector works with our interactive software tools (this part is not shown in the youtube video):

  • Stretch and Squash A programme illustrating how a gravitational wave distorts space. It makes use of the webcam image to `stretch and squeeze' your audience.
  • Michelson Interferometer An animated sketch that explains the interference effects in an interferometer.
See also our other examples of interactive media.