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Prof. Harald Pfeiffer

CITA, the University of Toronto

Date of Live Presentation: Mon, 17-Jun-2024
Location: St. Francis Xavier University


Colliding black holes and gravitational waves: Studying the universe through fantastic messengers


101 years ago, Albert Einstein put forth ideas that led to two astonishing predictions. The first prediction are black holes, regions of space with such intense gravity that nothing can escape, not even light or the strongest rockets. The second prediction are gravitational waves, the tiniest ripples in space and time itself travelling through the universe. Just one year ago these fantastic ideas were confirmed by direct observations of gravitational waves by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. The waves observed so far were all created by colliding black holes. In this talk, Prof. Pfeiffer will introduce black holes and gravitational waves. He will then trace the story of the remarkable first gravitational wave discoveries, and explain how gravitational waves are now used to explore our Universe.

Short bio

Prof. Pfeiffer studied in Germany and the United Kingdom, before obtaining his PhD from Cornell University (USA) in 2003. He performed postdoctoral research at the California Institute of Technology and in 2009 joined the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. Prof. Pfeiffer holds the Canada Research Chair in Numerical Relativity and Gravitational Wave Astrophysics and is a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Advanced Research. He has received a Bessel Award of the Humboldt Foundation and an Ontario Early Researcher Award. Prof. Pfeiffer performs supercomputer calculations to study black holes and Einstein's theory of General Relativity. Using these calculations he searches for gravitational waves with the LIGO gravitational wave detectors, and deciphers he information such waves contain about black holes, our universe, and the behaviour of gravity in the most extreme circumstances.

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