Shane Larson



 Shane Larson is a research associate professor of physics at Northwestern University, where he is a member of CIERA (Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics). He is also an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium. He works in the field of gravitational wave astrophysics, specializing in studies of compact stars, binaries, and the galaxy.  He works in gravitational wave astronomy with both the ground-based LIGO project, and future space-based detectors for NASA.



Shane grew up in eastern Oregon, and was an undergraduate at Oregon State University where he received his B.S. in Physics in 1991.  He received an M.S. in Physics (1994) and a Ph.D. in theoretical physics (1999) from Montana State University.  Before moving to Northwestern, he was a tenured associate professor of physics at Utah State University. He was formerly a postdoctoral scholar at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, then at the California Institute of Technology, and finally at the Center for Gravitational Wave Physics at the Pennsylvania State University.  He is an award winning teacher, and a Fellow of the American Physical Society.



Shane is also an avid amateur astronomer, observing with two homebuilt Dobsonian telescopes, named EQUINOX and COSMOS MARINER.  He currently lives in the Chicago area with his wife, daughter and cats.  In addition to astronomy, he enjoys hiking, mountain biking, and geocaching.  He also collects Legos, fountain pens, and telescopes.  He contributes regularly to a public science blog at, and tweets with the handle @sciencejedi .

WHISPERS FROM THE COSMOS: The Dawn of Gravitational Wave Astronomy

Virtually everything we know about the Universe has been discovered from the study of photons --- light in all its myriad forms from radio waves, to visible light, to x-rays and beyond.  At the dawn of the 21st century, advanced technology is providing access to the Cosmos through detection of sub-atomic particles like cosmic rays and neutrinos, and through detection of ripples in the fabric of spacetime itself. These ripples in spacetime, called gravitational waves, carry information not in the form of light or particles, but in the form of gravity itself.  Gravitational waves are messengers which carry the stories of what happens when two black holes collide, of how the inner core of a star destroys itself during a supernova explosion, and of how the graveyard of the galaxy is filled with the quiet whisper of binary white dwarf stars that spiral together ever so slowly as they fade into oblivion.

 This talk will explore the modern description of gravity, what gravitational waves are and how we hope to measure them, and what we hope to learn from their detection.  Gravity has a story to tell, and in this talk, we'll explore some of discoveries we hope to make by listening.