In many respects, Barry Barish is the quintessential scientist: soft-spoken and modest, he is also completely dedicated to the pursuit of pure science. Barish is currently the Linde professor of physics at Caltech. He’s a leading expert on gravitational waves, and his leadership and advocacy to the National Science Foundation about the need for LIGO (laser interferometer gravitational wave observatory) played a key role in convincing the NSF to fund it. Barish was the principal investigator of LIGO in 1994, before becoming its director in 1997.
The pay-off of Barish’s effort and the NSF decision was huge: Last February, Barish and other scientists announced to the world that they had detected gravitational waves four months before, marking the first ever direct detection since Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916. The proof came via a chirping sound—played below in this interview—which was the sound-wave translation of the merger of two black holes more than a billion light years away.
Barish talks to STEM-Talk host Dawn Kernagis and co-host and IHMC Director Ken Ford about the history of Einstein’s theory and the science that later ensued to set up this significant discovery. He also talks about the scientists who made it happen.
Barish gave an IHMC lecture in 2009 entitled “Einstein’s Unfinished Symphony: Sounds from the Distant Universe:”
http://tinyurl.com/gt9qpb9. Here is a link to the LIGO press conference on the gravitational waves detection: https://cds.cern.ch/record/2131411