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Joseph Taylor and Russell Hulse made their Nobel Prize-winning discovery using the 1,000-foot radio telescope at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
Joseph Taylor and Russell Hulse made their Nobel Prize-winning discovery using the 1,000-foot radio telescope at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

‘Gravity’s Chirp’

Photos by courtesy of NASA and Joseph Taylor

Nobel laureate’s Vernon Lecture on April 24 to focus on gravitational waves

Picture a bucket half filled with water. A single raindrop falls in.

“Chirp!”

That’s one way the sound was described after scientists directly detected gravitational waves for the first time in 2015 — exactly a century after Albert Einstein had predicted these ripples in the space-time fabric of the universe.

一道本不卡免费高清Researchers, who also detected the waves for a second time in early 2016, converted the first signal from its initial recording as a light pattern into sound. They said it sounded like a heartbeat or, using a different frequency, a chirp and dubbed it “gravity’s music.”

Joseph Taylor, 1993 Nobel laureate in physics, will deliver the Vernon Lecture at UD on April 24.
Joseph Taylor, 1993 Nobel laureate in physics, will deliver the Vernon Lecture at UD on April 24.

The path that led from 1915, when Einstein presented his theory, to the detection by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) was filled with twists and turns, some dead ends and countless scientific discoveries, said Joseph Taylor, professor emeritus at Princeton University. Among those critical discoveries was one he made in 1974 that earned him the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics.

On Wednesday, April 24, Taylor will trace that 100-year journey from theory to detection for an audience at the University of Delaware.

His talk, “From Einstein’s Theory to Gravity’s Chirp,” will be given at 7:30 p.m. in Clayton Hall on UD’s Newark campus. Designed for a general-interest audience, the Harcourt Vernon Lecture is sponsored by the in Greenville, Delaware, in partnership with the University’s and the Mount Cuba Foundation.

一道本不卡免费高清The lecture is free and open to the public, but space is limited; please register at .

一道本不卡免费高清Much of Taylor’s lecture will concern his Nobel Prize-winning discovery, with research student and co-laureate Russell Hulse, of a new type of orbiting pulsar. Pulsars, which are rotating neutron stars that emit pulses of radiation at regular intervals, are observed as beams of light that sweep over the Earth.

Using the radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Taylor and Hulse searched for pulsars and in 1974 discovered the first binary pair of pulsars orbiting each other. Studying the pair over the next several years, scientists found indirect proof of the existence of gravitational waves as predicted by Einstein.

When LIGO detected those waves in 2015, it was the final proof that binary black holes exist and can merge, physicists said. Gravitational waves provide scientists with a new way of observing and learning more about events in space.

This artist’s rendering depicts two pulsars orbiting each other, as Joseph Taylor discovered in 1974, leading to proof of Einstein’s theory about the existence of gravitational waves.
This artist’s rendering depicts two pulsars orbiting each other, as Joseph Taylor discovered in 1974, leading to proof of Einstein’s theory about the existence of gravitational waves.

Taylor has continued to study pulsars and, with his students and colleagues, has discovered hundreds more.

In the Vernon Lecture, he also plans to discuss the future of gravitational research through the LIGO observatory, a long-term project that has involved more than 1,000 scientists from 20 countries.

More about Joseph Taylor and the Vernon Lecture

Joseph H. Taylor Jr. was a research fellow at Harvard and taught at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, before joining the Princeton faculty in 1980.

He is co-author of the book Pulsars. His awards, in addition to the Nobel Prize, include a MacArthur Fellowship, the Wolf Prize and the Einstein Prize.

This illustration shows a neutron star, formed when a massive star runs out of fuel and collapses. Most neutron stars are observed as pulsars.
This illustration shows a neutron star, formed when a massive star runs out of fuel and collapses. Most neutron stars are observed as pulsars.

Taylor is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

The Vernon Lecture is named in honor of the late Harcourt ``Ace'' Vernon, one of the founders of Mount Cuba Observatory, which was established in the 1960s by three DuPont Co. engineers who were interested in astronomy, tracking satellites and the new field of computers.

Because Vernon was particularly interested in stimulating education and interest in science for people of all ages, the lecture is designed to attract the interest of the general public, especially young people. 

一道本不卡免费高清Beginning in 2016, the lecture has been held twice a year. For more information, including videos of some previous lectures, visit

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