The search for gravity waves

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A public lecture by Professor Mike Cruise


Everything we know about the Universe comes from the study of electromagnetic waves (Light, Infra-Red, X-Rays, Radio etc) emitted by stars and galaxies at various temperatures. However, our picture of the Universe still has many puzzles to resolve and many of these concern very massive objects such as Black Holes which we believe give off other kinds of radiation- gravitational waves; - which have not yet been detected.


Predicted by Einstein in 1915, gravitational radiation manifests itself as extremely small changes in the geometry of space-time which travel out from massive objects undergoing severe acceleration. The movements expected in gravitational wave detectors at the Earth are much smaller than an atomic nucleus and are technologically extremely difficult to observe. World-wide efforts to detect this radiation and use it to better understand the content and evolution of the Universe are now reaching a sensitivity at which detections are expected in the next few years. The technology used in these sophisticated detectors will be described, together with predictions of the objects that will be studied.


Mike Cruise studied at University College London for his BSc and PhD and has been active in space astronomy for over three decades. He moved to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in 1986 and became Associate Director for Space Science and then moved to the University of Birmingham in 1995. He has represented the UK at the European Space Agency and is currently the Chairman of Scientific Commission H (Fundamental Physics) in Cospar.


His PhD thesis involved the development of novel imaging devices and led to the first synthetic aperture design at X-Ray wavelengths. For over two decades he has been interested in gravitational wave detection from space and ground based facilities and is a member of the LIGO consortium and the LISA International Science Team. His group at Birmingham designed and built the Phasemeter electronics for LISA Pathfinder. For the past fifteen years he has been developing very high frequency gravitational wave detectors based on gravitational-electromagnetic interactions and has detectors operating at Birmingham in the GHz and Optical frequency bands.