Gravitational waves: listening in to the sounds of the universe

Tuesday 10 April 2018 at 7.00pm

Professor Joachim Brand

Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonics and Quantum Technologies, New Zealand and Institute of Advanced Study, Massey University Auckland

Venue: Holt’s Planetarium, NBHS, Chambers Street, Napier

Admission: Gold coin donation

This lecture examines how the detection of gravitational waves resembles listening more than seeing and how the merging of two black holes was ‘heard’, a discovery that most likely could never have been made with conventional telescopes. Joachim also looks at the amazing technology of laser interferometry that made this detection possible, and the development of quantum technologies that will make future detectors even more sensitive.

Joachim Brand is a theoretical physicist and a true explorer. He is drawn to the wildest most untamed realms of physics where the rules we learn at school no longer apply. Joachim refers to these realms as “unsafe” zones. His passion is to establish little islands of order and safety amidst the chaos. His main motivation is curiosity but his intrepid adventures are also laying the foundations for the technological revolutions of the future like quantum computing.

Originally from a small town in Germany, Joachim first came to New Zealand as an undergraduate backpacker with a bike. He spent eight weeks riding around and fell in love with the country. He did his PhD in Quantum Chemistry at Heidelberg University but then discovered the emerging field of cold atoms and switched direction. He was already captivated by quantum theory and this new field would allow him to create and observe almost any quantum phenomena he could think up. Joachim spent his Postdoc at the University of Washington learning everything he could about cold atoms. After that, a four-year advanced Postdoc at the Max Planck Institute enabled him to meet and work with many of the world’s leading theorists. Then, looking for some space and quiet to get on with his own work, Joachim applied for a job in New Zealand. Now both he and his wife, who is also a Professor of Physics, are happily settled at Massey University in Auckland.