Dr Sam Dolan
I am interested in the foundations and predictions of two very successful theories:
- Einstein's theory of General Relativity, which describes gravity, and the structure of the Universe on the largest scales - e.g. galaxies, black holes and the big bang.
- Quantum Field Theory (QFT), which describes the subatomic world and the weird quantum vacuum in which fundamental particles (eg. electrons, quarks, the Higgs boson, etc.) are created and destroyed.
Both theories are well-tested within their own regimes, and yet they seem to be fundamentally incompatible when brought together. This prevents us from fully understanding extreme scenarios, like the birth of the Universe, or the formation of black holes.
The predictions of QFT have been tested to extraordinary precision in the laboratory. To test Einstein's theory, we must look out into the galaxy and beyond. A key prediction of the theory is the existence of Gravitational Waves: propagating ripples in spacetime created by the massive bodies in motion. There is strong indirect evidence for their existence, coming from decades-long observations of binary pulsars. But as yet there is no direct evidence, because GWs are extremely weak by the time they reach Earth. It is very plausible that the first detection will be made in 2015 by newly-upgraded detectors. If detected, gravitational waves will give us an exciting new way of viewing the Universe, which will reveal some of the most energetic processes - such as the merger of black holes - which are currently hidden from view behind shrouds of dust and plasma. With this goal in mind, my recent work has been focussed on modelling the GW signal that is generated by black hole mergers, to help in our search for the 'needle in the haystack'.
In 2016/17 I am teaching two courses:
- MAS212 Scientific Computing and Simulation
- MAS314 Introduction to Relativity