Published: 28 May 2019, 07:30 | By: Till Bayer
The results of Bernuzzi’s simulations also serve the practical detection of gravitational waves. To this end he is cooperating with, among others, researchers at the European gravitational wave detector ‘Virgo’ – a kilometre-long instrument that uses laser beams to detect displacements in the subatomic range. “Applying our predictions resembles the filtering of sounds through the human brain,” says Bernuzzi. “If we know the song of a particular bird, we are able to recognise it even amongst louder sound sources.”
“Jena is the best environment for me”
Sebastiano Bernuzzi has known for some time that the University of Jena offers excellent conditions for him to optimise his models further. After obtaining his PhD in his home city of Parma in 2009, he did postdoctoral research at the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Jena for four years. “It was a very enjoyable and intensive time for me, in which I developed further as a scientist,” Bernuzzi recalls.
He then spent a period doing research at the elite Caltech Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, and – back in Parma – he obtained his post-doctoral qualification in 2017. “Then, when the possibility arose of returning to Jena, I did not hesitate,” added Bernuzzi, a father of two. “Due to its clear emphasis on theoretical physics, Jena is the best environment for me, for making progress in my research and my career.”
Neutron stars as possible source of heavy elements
In the near future, he wants to study in particular the components of the emissions left by the collision of binary neutron stars. “The emissions have hardly been studied as yet and they probably provide an explanation for the development of heavy elements,” explains Bernuzzi. “We probably have the fusion of these extremely compact objects to thank for the fact that we wear gold rings.”
Another research objective of his is to gain a better understanding of the fundamental physical processes that underlie these phenomena. “The collisions represent unique laboratories, which we cannot recreate on Earth. The basic knowledge that we obtain through studying them will be useful over the medium term to many areas of applied science, and by extension also to society.”