The Cosmic Controversy Podcast featuring Duncan Lorimer
Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) have frequently appeared in science headlines over the past decade or so. While they have been linked to transmissions from alien civilizations, all of the currently available evidence points strongly in favor of a celestial phenomenon. The most likely explanation points toward a magnetospheric origin on highly magnetized neutron stars known as magnetars. It is currently an open question as to whether there are multiple source populations of FRBs. While all the evidence now shows clear differences in pulse morphology between FRBs which repeat and those which, so far, do not, whether this can be attributed to geometric effects is not currently well understood.
Signals from Deep Space
West Virginia University’s Duncan Lorimer might be the godfather of the fast radio burst, but a pair of international students has taken exploring these mysterious cosmic flashes to a new level.
Devansh Agarwal and Kshitij Aggarwal, both physics and astronomy graduate students from India, recognized the painstaking work involved in evaluating fast radio burst candidates so they developed a quicker, more efficient way to detect fast radio bursts. They created artificial intelligent, machine-learning software that sifts through the endless stream of data from radio surveys.
Fast Radio Bursts: The Story So Far...
Professor Lorimer tells the story of the discovery of the first fast radio burst, summarizes what we know so far, describse the science opportunities these bursts present, and makes predictions for what we will learn in the next decade.
Little Green Men
Learn about the Pulsar Science Collaboratory through this feature length documentary that follows high-school students from Green Bank to their schools to WVU and includes interviews with WVU faculty and students. While not yet available to view or purchase online, you can request a showing of this documentary at your school or institution.
Gravitational waves show scientists the invisible universe
When the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced in 2016 that it had discovered gravitational waves, it was a breakthrough moment for astrophysics. They’re a revolutionary new way to study outer space without light—to observe things telescopes can’t, and study the invisible parts of the universe.
Strange Signals from Outer Space
For decades, some have suspected that there might be others out there, intelligent
beings capable of communicating with us, even visiting our world. It might sound
like science fiction, but today scientists from across the globe are scouring the
universe for signals from extraterrestrials.
In 2006, husband-and-wife team Duncan Lorimer and Maura McLaughlin discovered an enigmatic signal from space, known as a fast radio burst. It was a pulse of radiation so bright, it didn't appear to be caused by any known object in the universe.
On July 24, 2001, something arrived on Earth. It would take six years for it to be noticed. And even longer to prove it existed.
Professor Duncan Lorimer tells the story of Fast Radio Bursts’ discovery, and summarizes what we know so far. He describes the science opportunities these bursts present, and makes predictions for what we will learn in the next decade. Along with Lorimer, Professors Maura McLaughlin and Sarah Burke-Spolaor discuss FRBs and further explore the mysteries surrounding them with WVU's Diana Mazzella on the Sparked Podcast, Episode 10.
The students are at the Green Bank Observatory in the National Radio Quiet Zone.
There is no cell service. The teens are there because they are in the Pulsar Science
Collaboratory, a group that has involved thousands of students in searching for pulsars for more than a decade.
Explore the Pulsar Science Collaboratory through the Sparked Podcast, Episode 9.
Einstein wins again
The theory of general relativity passes a range of precise tests set by pair of extreme stars
An international team of researchers from ten countries has conducted a 16-year long experiment to challenge Einstein’s theory of general relativity with some of the most rigorous tests yet. This team includes West Virginia University professors Maura McLaughlin and Duncan Lorimer. Their study of a unique pair of extreme stars, so called pulsars, involved seven radio telescopes across the globe, including West Virginia’s Green Bank Telescope (GBT), and revealed relativistic effects that were expected and have now been observed for the first time. Einstein’s theory, which was conceived when neither these types of extreme stars nor the techniques used to study them could be imagined, makes testable predictions that agree with the observations at a level of at least 99.99%.
The Shaw Prize in Astronomy 2023 was awarded in equal shares to Professor Matthew Bailes, Professor Duncan Lorimer and Professor Maura McLaughlin, for the discovery of fast radio bursts (FRBs).
Duncan Lorimer and Maura McLaughlin, both professors in physics and astronomy in the WVU Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, and researchers in the Center for Gravitational Waves and Cosmology, are credited with helping discover fast radio bursts — intense, unexplained pulses of energy, coming from billions of light years away, that pop for mere milliseconds. Since they discovered the first one in 2007, several thousand of these mysterious cosmic flashes have been spotted.The Shaw Prize reaffirms the magnitude of their discovery, in addition to the wealth of research and innovations they’ve contributed to the world of astronomy and toward elevating the profile of WVU.