In order to meet the general public’s crave for science, China Science and Technology Museum (CSTM) invited Prof. Cao Junwei, deputy director of Tsinghua University’s Research Institute of Information Technology and leader of Tsinghua University’s LIGO Working Group, to the museum on February 20th to deliver a popular science lecture entitled “Gravitational Waves: Ripples in the Fabric of Space-Time”. The lecture was attended by an audience of more than 500.
Getting started with three questions—what did scientists see? What did they “hear”? And where do gravitational waves come from? Prof. Cao invited the audience to join him in the quest for understanding of gravitational waves. He told the audience that what the scientists saw was actually not that mysterious, they were factually the waveforms of detector signal discovered by observation devices; he also played on-the-spot a sound resulting from the transformation of a gravitational wave signal into the acoustic signal. And by means of animation demonstrations, he showed the audience the process of gravitational waves originating from a pair of merging black holes 1.3 billion years ago. In chronological order, Prof. Cao introduced to the audience the key time nodes and events in the period ranging from the first mentioning of gravitational waves to their first observation. He went on to emphasize that with a view to having a clear understanding of gravitational waves, one must in the first place understand the nature of Albert Einstein’s general relativity, that is, space, time and matter are interrelated.
In the entire duration of the lecture and by multiple means of animation demonstrations, photographs, data and other information materials, Prof. Cao Junwei gave the audience a narration in simple terms of what gravitational waves are; through what devices and by what methods they have been discovered; and what significance their discovery holds to us, thus enabling the audience to have a relatively vivid understanding of an otherwise rather abstract and difficult scientific concept. Although gravitational waves have no realistic applications at the moment, through his comparison of the discovery and applications of electromagnetic waves, however, Prof. Cao Junwei, together with members of the audience, gave free rein to their imagination of what possible impact gravitational waves will have for our lives in the future.
(by China Science and Technology Museum)
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