Nobel Prize for Physics awarded to gravitational wave pioneers

Kip Thorne

Rainer Weiss has been awarded one half of the 9m Swedish kronor (£825,000) prize, announced by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm today.

This year's Nobel Prize for physics is going, unsurprisingly, to three people who represent the hundreds of researchers behind the first direct detection of gravitational waves at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO.

Gravitational waves were predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago as part of his theory of general relativity, but he thought they might be too weak to be detected.

Using Ligo - the world's most sophisticated detector - this year's Nobel laureates were able to listen to the waves as two giant black holes rotated around each other.

In awarding the Nobel, the Swedish academy said the study of gravitational waves promises "a revolution in astrophysics". A third European observatory, Virgo, has also detected one of the mergers, allowing researchers to locate the source of these waves more accurately than ever before.

Dr Brian Bowsher, chief executive of the UK's Science and Technology Facilities Council, said: "The award of the Nobel today is a celebration of the genius of a vast team of people, including many UK-based scientists and engineers, and it is something everyone in the United Kingdom can share in". "The discovery of black-hole mergers and the detection of gravitational waves never would have happened without these creative scientists".




Alfred Nobel created five prizes in his 1895 will for medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and peace. Barish and Kip S. Thorne who along with their team managed to record gravitational waves in 2015 were awarded the coveted prize for "opening up unseen worlds". Professor. "LIGO's history-making work has given us new insight into our universe".

"Gravitational waves, which rythmically stretch and squeeze space, change tone as their message alters". Rainer Weiss, 85 was born in Germany and works as a Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Gravitational waves contain information about their explosive origins and the nature of gravity that can not be obtained from other astronomical signals". Weiss, Thorne and Barish "ensured that four decades of effort led to gravitational waves finally being observed". It took months for the scientists to convince themselves that they had in fact heard gravitational waves, he said.

Theoretical astrophysicist Kip Thorne, 77, engineered a similar interferometer prototype at the California Institute of Technology in the 1970s, and his group's designs and discoveries laid the foundation for the LIGO.

"I am very excited that it worked out in the end".

In 2011, LSU Alumni Professor Bradley Schaefer and colleagues from the Supernova Cosmology Project received a share of the prize for their observation of distant supernovas. "We salute the LSU scientists who contributed to this discovery and all of the members of the LIGO scientific collaboration".

Drever died this year; the Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously.

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