Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded to LIGO Black Hole Researchers

Tomas Mccoy
October 4, 2017

However, gravitational waves are direct testimony to disruptions in spacetime itself. The gravitational waves from two black holes colliding over a billion light years away were detected on September 14, 2015, at 4:51 a.m. CST by the twin LIGO detectors, located in Livingston, La., and Hanford, Wash.

A statement issued by the Nobel prize committee said: "The 2017 Nobel Laureates have, with their enthusiasm and determination, each been invaluable to the success of Ligo".

"Gravitational waves, which rythmically stretch and squeeze space, change tone as their message alters".

LIGO is operated by Caltech and MIT with funding from the US National Science Foundation (NSF), and supported by over 1,000 researchers around the world, including those at the Universities of Glasgow, Cardiff and Birmingham amongst others in the UK.

MIT's Weiss was given half of the prize, with the other half shared by Caltech's Barish and Thorne.

Ultrasensitive As laser light bounces back and forth along arms between its mirrors, LIGO senses gravitational waves as minuscule fluctuations in the lengths of the arms.

Ironically, Einstein would have been quite surprised because even though he theorized about gravitational waves, he didn't think humans would ever have the technology to spot them. At some point, Einstein himself started doubting their existence, but one of his assistants convinced him that mathematically, they should exist.

Ronald Drever, a Scottish physicist, who alongside Weiss and Thorne played a leading role in developing Ligo, died in March from dementia less than 18 months after gravitational waves were first detected. It all started with US physicist Robert Forward building a small interferometer in the 1960s. However, Weiss analyzed the problem far more thoroughly and recognized the need for kilometers-long interferometers.

Scientists have noted for a decisive contribution to the LIGO detector and for the observation of gravitational waves. He also identified the main sources of extraneous noise, and explained how to deal with them in an unpublished report in 1972 that became the basis for LIGO. He made a significant design tweak and assumed leadership of the project until he stepped down in 2005.

"We expect surprises", Weiss said. "It was something that Rai [ner] and Kip couldn't do". Since their initial discovery two years ago, three more gravitational waves have been documented. The culmination of so many decades of work was starting to shape up. The next detections might come from the merger of two ultra-dense neutron stars, or a neutron star colliding with a black hole, he said.

"I can't imagine that now that we have another way to look at the universe that there isn't going to be some enormous surprises". This year, the predictions came true. Weiss set out the plan.

Aside from his work on LIGO, Thorne is known for his theories about time travel.

The Nobel week began yesterday with the presentation of the prize for medicine. The other half was split by Barish, a Nebraska native, and Thorne, who was born in Utah. That things had worked out in essentially precisely the way that I had expected.

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