Kip Thorne

The human race has a yearning to explore. That's part of our biological and psychological makeup.

Scientist and Co-Founder of LIGO, which discovered gravitational waves

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Kip Thorne | Scientist and Co-Founder of LIGO, which discovered gravitational waves
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Kip Thorne is among the most influential scientists or our era. A founder at LIGO, he and his team made history for discovering the existence of gravitational waves—a discovery that earned him a place on TIME Magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential PeopleThrough his work on films like Interstellar and Contact, he introduced us to wormholes, black holes, the theory of time travel, and so much more. And through his talks, he looks at how scientific breakthroughs may shape our future. 

In his decades-long career, Kip Thorne personally trained many of today's world leaders in research on black holes and other relativistic phenomena. Thorne is co-founder of the billion-dollar LIGO project, which stands for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. In September 2015, LIGO helped open a radically new window onto the universe, based on the discovery of ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves—part of Einstein’s theory of relativity. For this discovery, he and his collaborators were awarded the $3 million dollar Breathrough Prize for Fundamental Physics, the $500,000 Gruber Prize in Cosmology, the $1.2 million Shaw Prize in Astronomy, and the $1 million Kavli Prize in astrophysics.

Thorne and his students also invented quantum nondemolition technology to control the quantum behavior of human-sized objects, and they pioneered the modern theory of wormholes and time travel.

Thorne provided the scientific vision for Christopher Nolan’s film Interstellar, and served as its science advisor and executive producer. He also introduced wormholes into modern science fiction and movies through his work on Carl Sagan’s novel and film Contact. He is the author of the bestselling book Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy. To accompany Nolan’s film, he has written The Science of Interstellar, which reveals that the movie’s jaw-dropping events and never-before-attempted visuals are grounded in real science.

Thorne was elected to both the US National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences, and for his science accomplishments, he has been awarded the Swiss Albert Einstein Medal and the UNESCO Niels Bohr Gold Medal. He is the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus at Caltech.   

Speech Topics

The Science of Interstellar
 Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster movie Interstellar is filled with real science, thanks in large measure to executive producer Kip Thorne. In this talk, based on his bestselling book The Science of Interstellar, Thorne describes the science that underpins the movie. He gives his scientist's interpretation of the many weird and wonderful things seen on the screen and embedded in the story, and he uses the movie as a springboard for explaining the physical laws that govern the universe. Interstellar has the most remarkable, and perhaps puzzling, climax seen in any science fiction film since Kubrick’s 2001, A Space Odyssey. Thorne will explain the climax and use it to elucidate some deep scientific concepts that serve as a springboard for deeper discussions.
A Scientist in Hollywood

Over the past three decades, Kip Thorne has had an enormous impact on Hollywood science fiction—and Hollywood, in turn, has triggered some of Thorne’s deepest scientific insights. It all began in 1980 when Carl Sagan introduced Thorne to Hollywood movie producer Lynda Obst, setting in motion a powerfully creative collaboration. In the late ‘80s and early 90s, Thorne advised Sagan and Obst on Contact, the novel and the movie. Through his advice, he introduced wormholes into modern science fiction and film. In turn, his conversations with Sagan catalyzed Thorne’s breakthrough scientific research on wormholes and time travel. In 2006, Thorne’s conversations with Obst produced the seed that grew into Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster movie Interstellar. Over the subsequent seven years, Thorne’s discussions with Christopher and Jonathan Nolan were key to integrating real science into the fabric of Interstellar. And from Thorne’s close collaboration with the Interstellar Visual Effects team—led by Oscar winner Paul Franklin—he and the whole world learned what a wormhole, and a gigantic fast-spinning black hole, would really look like, up close. In this delightful evening, Thorne describes the joys, frustrations, and Eureka moments of these collaborations with brilliant, creative artists.

The Warped Side of the Universe From the Big Bang to Black Holes
There is a Warped Side to our Universe: objects and phenomena that are made from warped space and warped time instead of from matter. Examples are black holes, the big bang that gave birth to our Universe, and ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves. In this talk, Kip Thorne will describe surprising, recent predictions about what happens on the warped side of our universe, and will discuss plans and expectations for testing those predictions, in 2015-2019, by observing gravitational waves and extracting the information they carry. This is a fascinating but accessible look at the cutting edge science that will change how you view our universe, and your place within it.