Sam Finn, Penn State University
Gravitational Wave Phenomenology
Physics Division Colloquium - 7 June 2002

In physics, phenomenology is the bridge between theory and experiment, and phenomenologists are those brave souls who interpret observations in terms of existing theory(s), build models to comprehend observations where theory has not yet tread, and bring to the analysis of data and the design of experiments an understanding of how existing theories can be tested or their consequences illuminated. Gravitational wave detectors are rapidly reaching a sensitivity that will allow observation to confront theory. As that goal is reached, a community of gravitational wave phenomenologists is emerging, eager to tackle the interpretive challenges that these new observations will pose. What are those challenges? Testing general relativity - Einstein's theory of gravity - for starters, and exploring the astrophysics of compact objects, including the gamma-ray burst model and the population of compact binary systems in our galaxy and beyond. In this colloquium we will explore the character of gravitational waves, including what they are and how they are generated, and then discuss several examples of how gravitational wave observations can be used, both as an astronomical tool and to explore the fundamental physics of gravity.

ANL Physics Division Colloquium Schedule