Research Fellows Directory
Dr Jonathan Gair
University of Edinburgh
My research is focussed on using gravitational waves to learn about the Universe we live in. Gravitational waves are one of the fundamental predictions of Einstein's theory of general relativity - when masses are accelerated, they create fluctuations in the gravitational field in their vicinity, which propagate outward at the speed of light, carrying energy. These are gravitational waves.
Only recently has the necessary technology become available to detect these waves directly, so it is very exciting to be involved in this new field. Detections of gravitational waves will open a new window onto the Universe, that will allow us to learn about some of the strangest objects that exist, including neutron stars, black holes and cosmic strings. We can predict some of what we will learn, such as measuring the masses and rotation rates of black holes. However, there is also the potential that we will discover an entirely new type of object or physical effect. We can also use gravitational wave observations to test the validity of Einstein's theory of relativity in the vicinity of black holes - a regime in which it has so far not been tested. Any observed deviations from Einstein's predictions will provide clues in the search for a fundamental theory of everything and valuable insights into how the Universe works.
My research is divided between three areas: 1) Data analysis - devising and testing algorithms for identifying and characterising gravitational wave sources in the data that comes from our detectors; 2) Source modelling - in order to identify sources present in our data sets, we need to understand what the gravitational wave signals will look like, which means simulating them on a computer; 3) Scientific exploitation of gravitational wave detections - understanding what our observations could tell us about the Universe, in particular the properties of stars, black holes and galaxies and the validity of Einstein's theory of relativity.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)