Lecture illustrates the mathematics of gravitational waves


The recent detection of gravitational waves -- about 100 years after Albert Einstein theorized them -- shook the science world.

S. James Gates
University of Maryland physics Prof. S. James Gates Jr. will present the 2016 Purdue "Math Is Key" lecture.

S. James Gates Jr., distinguished professor of physics at the University of Maryland, presented his talk "Sono-astronomy: When the Cosmos Does the Wave, It Does Wave Gravity"  in March.

Video of "Sono-astronomy: When the Cosmos Does the Wave, It Does Wave Gravity" talk.

Gates -- the director of the Center for String and Particle Theory, a National Academy of Sciences member and recipient of a National Medal of Science -- will give a non-technical introduction to the concept of gravitational waves. The talk will utilize CGI to illustrate and illuminate the mathematics behind Einstein's gravitational wave theory, which has been recently observed in action by the LIGO (laser interferometric gravity-wave observatory) facility.

Gates is known for his pioneering work in supersymmetry and supergravity, areas closely related to string theory. Gates earned two bachelor of science degrees in physics and mathematics and his Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1984, Gates co-authored "Superspace, or One thousand and one lessons in supersymmetry," the first comprehensive book on supersymmetry, and joined the faculty at Maryland as an associate professor. Four years later, he became the first African American to hold an endowed chair in physics at a major U.S. research university.

The author of more than 200 research papers, Gates has been featured in dozens of video documentaries, including the PBS NOVA productions "The Elegant Universe" in 2003 and "Big Bang Machine" in 2015. For his contributions to science and research, he received the National Medal of Science from President Obama in 2013. Gates serves on the U.S. President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the National Commission on Forensic Science, and the Maryland State Board of Education. He is a strong and highly visible advocate for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

The purpose of the "Math Is Key" public lecture series is to invite to campus a prominent mathematical scientists to present a lecture of general interest. The aim is to have a lecture that is accessible to a wide audience of students (undergraduate and graduate) and faculty from the mathematical sciences and related disciplines, and that highlights the beauty and use of some part of mathematics while maintaining technical details at a minimum.

Previous speakers include  Margaret Wright, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University, Martin Golubitsky of Ohio State University, Richard Tapia of Rice University and Arlie Petters of Duke University.