Archive for April 18, 2019

On the Fellowship of Roy Kerr

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , on April 18, 2019 by telescoper

Among the new Fellows of the Royal Society announced this week, I was astonished to see the name of Roy Kerr, the man who gave his name to the Kerr Metric an exact solution of Einstein’s equations of general relativity which describes the geometry of space-time around a rotating black hole.

When I say “astonished” I don’t mean that Kerr does not deserve this recognition. Far from it. I’m astonished because it has taken so long:the Kerr solution was published way back in 1963.

Anyway, better late than never, and heartiest congratulations to him!

While I’m on about Roy Kerr I’ll also say that I now think there is a very strong case for him to be awarded a Nobel Prize. The reasons are twofold.

One is that all the black hole binary systems whose coalescences produced gravitational waves detected by LIGO have involved Kerr black holes. Without Kerr’s work it would not have been possible to construct the template waveforms needed to extract signals from the LIGO data.

Second, and even more topically, the black hole in M87 recently imaged (above) by the Event Horizon Telescope is also described by the Kerr geometry. Without Kerr’s work the modelling of light paths around this object would not have been possible either.


The Multiverse – Andrew Wynn Owen

Posted in Poetry, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on April 18, 2019 by telescoper

The Multiverse is Andrew Wynn Owen‘s first book of poems. It was published last year by Carcanet Press, but I only found out about it a week or two ago, from a review in a recent edition of the Times Literary Supplement. I had £10 in book tokens left over from a crossword prize so decided to spend them on this exuberant and diverse collection (which cost £9.99).

There are two particularly interesting things about this book. One is its thematic range, which is centred on science and philosophy but spreads out very widely across many fields. It’s actually not unusual for poets to be interested in science, though perhaps it is rather rarer for scientists to be interested in poetry…

The other particularly interesting aspect of these poems is their stylistic range. All of them are written in very precise forms, including the various types of sonnet, each with a strict metre but differing radically in structure from one to the other. As you might expect there are clear echoes of poetry from other eras, including nods in the direction of the metaphysical poets such as George Herbert.

You might infer from what I’ve said that these poems are merely imitative of other works, but that’s not the case. Although they are often very witty, these poems are not just parodies. I think the poet’s intention was to demonstrate how much can still be said that’s relevant to the modern world using established forms. I think he succeeds brilliantly, and he shows such mastery of so many different styles that it’s hard to believe this is a debut collection.

The title The Multiverse plays both on the aspects I described above, the scientific and philosophical themes, and the plurality of verse forms contained in this collection. As a physicist, though I’m not a proponent of the ‘scientific’ Multiverse, I recommend the poetic version very highly!