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Workshop / Seminar

Distinguished Colloquium: Physics & Astronomy – William Unruh

Webster Physical Science Building, Pullman, WA 99163 View location in Google Maps

About the event

The Department of Physics and Astronomy invites all to a colloquium featuring Dr. William Unruh, University of British Columbia. Dr. Unruh will present his talk, “”Analog Gravity, and the measurement of Hawking Radiation.”

Please meet our guest speaker at a reception to follow, 5–6 p.m.  in the foyer on floor G above the lecture hall.


Hawking’s theoretical discovery in 1974 of the thermal emission from black holes was one of the most surprising results in Physics, which raised numerous questions. Where do these particles come from? Do the unphysical assumptions of the derivation invalidate the result? How can one test whether or not it is right whene small black holes (which could emit detectable amounts of the radation) are hard to come by? In 1981 I found that not only black holes emit such thermal radiation, but also fluid flow systems in the lab (water, optical fluids, BECs,…) would exhibit radiation by the same arguments Hawking gave for black holes. I will review the black hole situation, the analog gravity situation, and the experiments which have been carried out to see this phenomenon.


William Unruh received his PhD from Princeton University in 1971 with John Wheeler as his supervisor. After postdocs at Birkbeck College and UC Berkeley, he became a faculty member at McMaster University and then UBC, where he is currently. He has won a number of honours, amongst which the Fellow of the Royal Society of London is the one he is most proud of.  He is currently a Hagler Fellow at the Texas A&M University.

He has worked on the overlap between quantum mechanics and gravity for his whole career, including the effects of quantum noise on gravity wave detectors, the relation between particles and the acceleration of an observer in quantum field theories, quantum effects around black holes and in cosmology, and the interpretation of quantum mechanics.


Robin Stratton