Dr. Will M. Farr of Stony Brook University spoke to MSRI’s Math Lovers Forum (mathlovers.msri.org) in October 2021. This event was hosted by Ashok & Gita Vaish and David Eisenbud.
In the past few years, the exciting new field of gravitational wave astronomy has delivered many “firsts.” The first detection of gravitational waves—from a pair of black holes merging—in 2015; the first detection of gravitational waves from a merging pair of neutron stars—an event which also produced electromagnetic emission that was ultimately observed in various ways by ~30% of the global astronomical community—in 2017; the first detection of multiple gravitational wave “spectral lines” from a “ringing” black hole announced in 2019; and a number of “oddities” in 2020, including unusually massive black hole and neutron star mergers and a merger with one object larger than expected for a neutron star but smaller than expected for a black hole. 2020 also saw the first announcement of detections of a “mixed” merger between a neutron star and a black hole. Farr will discuss some of these exciting results in detail and explain the bright future of this fast-moving new field.
Will M. Farr earned his B.S. in Physics from Caltech in 2003 and his PhD from MIT in 2010. After a CIERA fellowship at Northwestern University, he joined the faculty at the University of Birmingham in 2013. In 2018 he moved to Stony Brook University and the Center for Computational Astrophysics (part of the Simons Foundation’s Flatiron Institute). He is an Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy and the leader of the CCA’s Gravitational Wave Astronomy Group. He is a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, an international collaboration of scientists studying gravitational waves detected by the LIGO instruments.