Nobel Laureate Dr. Kip Thorne To Deliver 48th Oppenheimer Memorial Lecture

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Dr. Kip Thorne/Courtesy Photo 

Nobel Laureate Dr. Kip Thorne will deliver the 48th Oppenheimer Memorial Lecture at 7:30 pm, Monday, May 6 in the Duane W. Smith Auditorium, 1300 Diamond Drive in Los Alamos.

The lecture, “A Brief History of Black Holes: From Oppenheimer to LIGO,” is free and open to the public.

Topic Background

In 1939, J. Robert Oppenheimer and his student, Hartland Snyder, used Einstein’s relativity theory to predict that, if a massive star collapses at the end of its life, it will produce an object that we now call a black hole.  This prediction was highly controversial and badly understood by physicists for more than 20 years, but turned out to be correct.  It was the seminal trigger for major insights about the universe (including quasars, cosmic X-ray sources, singularities, enigmatic paradoxes, and much more), culminating with LIGO’s discovery of gravitational waves from colliding black holes in 2015.  

Kip Thorne received the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to the experimental discovery of gravitational waves by the LIGO project, long a prediction of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. For that work, and many contributions in relativity and relativistic astrophysics, he has received many other awards, including the Breakthrough Prize, the Shaw Prize, and the Kavli Prize. 

A Ph.D. student of John A. Wheeler at Princeton (Richard Feynman was another of Wheeler’s students), Thorne went to Caltech as a professor in 1967 and has been there since. In the 1970s, Thorne and his students formulated a vision for gravitational wave astronomy that took more than 40 years to realize, requiring along the way insights into the nature of black holes including the “membrane paradigm”, quantum measurement, and numerical simulations of general relativity on computers. 

 Thorne has published serious work on time travel, identifying physical mechanisms that may always prevent spacetime from developing closed time-like curves (i.e., travel to the past). At the interface between science and the arts, he co-conceived and initiated what became the Christopher Nolan’s movie, Interstellar, of which he was the film’s executive producer and science advisor. 

Thorne is known for his ability to convey the excitement and significance of discoveries in gravitation and astrophysics to both professional and lay audiences.

About the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Lecture Series

The J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Committee is dedicated to preserving the legacy of Robert Oppenheimer, the first director of Los Alamos National Laboratory and one of the most influential scientists of the 20th Century. In addition to its annual scholarship program, the JROMC sponsors the annual Oppenheimer Memorial Lecture.

For more information, please contact Steven J. Buelow at