Associate Professor of Physics Steven Penn was a featured guest on WXXI’s “Connections with Evan Dawson” radio program, joining the Monthly Science Roundtable discussion on the recent breakthrough gravitational waves discovery made by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration (LSC).
Penn played a major role in the mirror substrate and coating design for the LIGO Research Project. The project’s discovery confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.
A co-author on the Physical Review Letters article announcing the detection, Penn joined the LSC in 1998 while a postdoctoral fellow at Syracuse University. Hobart and William Smith became one of the first small colleges to join the LSC when Penn moved here in 2002. Penn’s original LSC research was on the mirror design for Advanced LIGO. He discovered how to significantly reduce the thermal noise in the material fused silica, which led to the selection of fused silica for the Advanced LIGO mirror substrates and suspensions.
On “Connections with Evan Dawson,” Penn was joined by project colleagues from RIT’s Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation in the School of Mathematical Sciences: Professor Carlos Lousto, Assistant Professor Richard O’Shaughnessy and Associate Professor John Whelan.
On Thursday, Feb. 11, Penn hosted a public presentation at HWS as part of the initial gravitational waves announcement made by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Penn’s on-campus event was held in conjunction with a live press conference by the NSF. A recording of the HWS press conference is available online. A video of the national press conference is available on the NSF YouTube channel. The presentation begins at 26 minutes, 30 seconds.
Penn was also interviewed by WXXI immediately following the announcement. Penn hosted another on-campus public lecture about the detection and the role played by HWS in the research on Thursday, Feb. 18.