Martin McHugh has for more than 10 years worked on the experimental search for gravitational waves – most recently as part of the large international collaboration known as LIGO. The goal of LIGO is first to make a direct verification of the existence of these waves, which are a prediction of Einstein’s theory of gravity – General Relativity. But probably more importantly, these waves, once discovered, will be a tool to study astrophysics, cosmology, and as a probe to a better understanding of the gravitational interaction.
Professor McHugh’s current research is somewhat of a departure from this previous work. He is working on a history of physics, more specifically a biography of Robert H. Dicke. Dicke made significant contributions in many areas of physics over the second half of the twentieth century. A short list of his accomplishments include the invention of the microwave radiometer, work in atomic physics on the narrowing of spectral lines by use of a buffer gas (sometimes referred to as ‘Dicke narrowing’), and foundational work on the theory of superradiance. But Dicke is best known for his work in gravitational physics – both his pioneering experiments, and his role in the development of the Brans-Dicke theory. The latter done with Loyola emeritus professor of physics Carl Brans when he was a graduate student at Princeton. Dicke also played a pivotal role in the discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background.