3Q: Scott Hughes on cosmic distances and the future of gravitational wave astronomy
Professor of physics describes our understanding of the expansion of the universe through “standard sirens.”
In research preceding the LIGO detector systems’ first and second observing runs, Scott Hughes, MIT professor in the Department of Physics, working with Daniel Holz of the University of Chicago, developed a theoretical technique by which measuring the gravitational waves and SHBs of this kind of binary system could be used to measure cosmic distances, and to learn about the universe’s expansion.
Hughes, who is not a member of the LIGO collaboration, answers questions about this technique and the future of gravitational wave astronomy.
Professor Hughes attended Cornell University as an undergraduate, earning a B.A. in Physics in 1993. He received his Ph.D. in Physics from the California Institute of Technology, working with Professor Kip Thorne. After spending one year working in computational relativity at the University of Illinois, he returned to Caltech as a postdoc and instructor in the Physics Department. Professor Hughes then spent two and half years as a postdoc in the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, before moving to MIT in January 2003.
Professor Hughes’ research is in astrophysical general relativity, focusing in particular upon black holes and gravitational-wave sources. Some questions which drive his present work are:
What measurements can be made to test in detail the hypothesis that massive black hole candidates are in fact the black holes of general relativity?
What can we learn about the cosmic evolution of black holes and the structures that host them from future space-based gravitational-wave measurements?
Can we design a network of ground-based detectors to optimally measure the characteristics of important gravitational-wave sources?
Much of this work involves the use (and sometimes the abuse) of general relativistic perturbation theory.
MKI’s Professor Scott Hughes talks with Sam Harnett on The World According to Sound about gravitational waves.
Click here to go to SoundCloud. See episode 25 of The World According to Sound for the brief interview and to hear sound clips of gravitational waves.