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Kip Thorne presents at the Frey Lecture

Kip Thorne shared stories of winning a few astrophysics-related wagers with his friend Stephen Hawking and discussed the science behind Interstellar, on which he served as a scientific adviser. (photo by Donn Young).

Nobel laureate shares love of science and art

Theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Kip Thorne combines a love of science and art in his work, and he shared that passion with a Carolina audience on Feb. 21.

Thorne discussed “My Romance with the Warped Side of the Universe: From Black Holes and Wormholes to Time Travel and Gravitational Waves” as the 2018-19 Frey Foundation Distinguished Visiting Professor, one of the highest honors bestowed by the College to distinguished public leaders.

Thorne, a professor emeritus at Caltech, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2017, along with Rainer Weiss and Barry C. Barish, for their contributions to the observation of gravitational waves. He was also an executive producer on Christopher Nolan’s 2014 film Interstellar.

“The venue for Interstellar is the warped side of the universe — black holes, wormholes, singularities and gravitational waves,” said Thorne. “We built these phenomena, with the exception of gravitational waves, in the movie. And I wrote a book, The Science of Interstellar.”

Thorne shared the excitement of making the “big discovery” in 2015 that led to the Nobel Prize.

“1.3 billion years ago in a galaxy far, far away two black holes circled around each other …. They came crashing together and produced a huge burst of gravitational waves,” Thorne said. “The power output was 50 times larger than the total power output of all the stars in the universe put together. It was the biggest, most powerful explosion except for the Big Bang, the birth of the universe itself.”

These days, Thorne spends more time nurturing his artistic side. He is working on a book, The Warped Side of the Universe, that will feature his poetry.