Research Fellows Directory
Dr Simon Horsley
University of Exeter
When you think of waves, what do you think of? Perhaps the undulation of the ocean, or a "Mexican wave" moving through a packed crowd. Or you might be thinking of the light waves that we see, or the sound waves we hear. You might even be thinking of the gravitational waves that were recently observed coming from two merging black holes. The wonderful thing about waves is that they are ubiquitous, present in the most everyday experience and in the deepest theories of physics.
Not only is this true on a superficial level, but the equation predicting the motion of these waves is - in many cases - exactly the same. Think about this for a moment. A gravitational wave in space-time moves according to exactly the same equation as the electromagnetic wave received by your mobile phone, and exactly the same equation as the sound wave coming from your mouth. You won't find this little equation hosting many panel shows; it is quiet and subtle. But it speaks for a lot of physics.
My research centres around this "wave equation". In particular, I am interested in how to change the way a wave moves through space. I try to understand very simple things about a wave's interaction with a material when it hits it. I look to control things like the way the wave reflects, or the way it bends, or the direction in which it is guided. The output of my research is usually in the form of a prediction that a particular combination of materials will produce a particular effect on a wave. I find out things things like "if you use this and this material then you will have something that is invisible".
Because the wave equation is everywhere, this kind of knowledge is very useful. For instance, we could use it to prevent traffic noise from entering a building, or to make the equivalent of a diode for light, or to guide seismic waves away from settlements. Because most of our technology is based on wave physics, any advance in this field can have an impact on society.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)