Observing Gravitational Waves (Stefan Ballmer)

This course is an introduction to the phenomena of gravitational waves, their basic properties and the experimental techniques that made their observation possible. The course will first explore the theoretical aspects of gravitational waves, and then look at the design constraints and noise limitations for gravitational wave interferometers.

Student Presentations on June 13

As announced at the beginning of the course, we will have student presentations on June 13, the last day of the class.

For coordination, may I therefore ask you to pick a topic by tomorrow (June 6), and let me know during class. I provided a list of possible topics below, but you are free to pick another topic yourself - just let me know what you choose.

You should aim for a presentation of about 18-20min. You can use slides or just chalk and blackboard.

Also, please provide me a copy of your presentation notes before June 13. (Either a copy of your slides, or scan your hand notes if you are doing a blackboard presentation.)


Possible topics:

More experimental topics:

  • Torsion bar detectors: Antenna pattern and Newtonian noise response
  • Length sensing and control: The Pound-Drever-Hall technique applied to a dual-recycled interferometer
  • Angular sensing and control scheme for a dual-recycled interferometer
  • Thermal lensing and higher order wavefront control in an interferometer
  • Squeezing the quantum noise - the experimentalist’s view
  • Designing a test mass suspension for GW interferometers: Noise constrains and performance requirement

More observational topics:

  • The structure of a pipeline searching for GW templates
  • Searching for GW background radiation: motivation, experimental challenges, foreground sources
  • Using detector networks to localize GW sources

More theoretical topics:

  • The post-Newtonian expansion approach to gravitational-wave wave-form templates
  • Alternative theories of gravity, and how GW observations could constrain them
  • The Hulse Taylor pulsar - using GR corrections for measuring binary parameters

Lecture Files


14 lectures:
Tue May 16 slot 2,3 (Room #201b) fileNotes Lecture 1: Relativity and Geometry
Tue May 23 slot 2,3,4 (Room #201b) fileNotes Lecture 2: Einstein eqn. and Grav. Waves
Tue May 30 slot 2,3,4 (Room #201a) fileNotes Lecture 3: GW Chirps and interferometers
Tue June 6 slot 2,3,4 (Room #201b) fileNotes Lecture 4: Quantum and Thermal Noise
Tue June 13 slot 2,3,4 (Room #201b)

Note: slot 2: 10:25 - 12:10, slot 3: 13:00 - 14:45, slot 4: 14:55 - 16:40


There will be short student presentations on a related topic of choice. They are scheduled on the last day, June 13.