2017 Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded to LIGO Black Hole Researchers

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Scientists Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne have won the Nobel Prize in Physics for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves.

  • Rainer Weiss, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Kip Thorne and Barry Barish, both of the California Institute of Technology, are awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics  for the discovery of ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves, which were predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago but had never been directly seen.
  • Dr. Weiss, 85, Dr. Thorne, 77, and Dr. Barish, 81, were the architects and founders of that collaboration, known as LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, along with the late Ron Drever, also of Caltech, who died this year.

What are Gravitational waves?

  • Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916 in his general theory of relativity.
  • Gravitational waves are ripples in the space-time caused by most violent and energetic processes in the Universe.
  • ‎The strongest gravitational waves are produced by catastrophic events such as colliding black holes.

Why are they detected?

  • Gravitational waves are detected and analysed to to learn about and understand objects and phenomena in the Universe.
  • ‎In recent years, subatomic particles called neutrinos have begun to be used to study aspects of the heavens.

What is LIGO?

  • LIGO is the world’s largest gravitational wave observatory.
  • ‎It is comprised of two enormous laser interferometers located thousands of kilometers apart.
  • ‎LIGO helps to detect and understand the origins of gravitational waves.

What is an Interferometer?

  • Interferometers are investigative tools used in many fields of science and engineering.
  • ‎They are called interferometers because they work by merging two or more sources of light to create an interference pattern, which can be measured and analyzed.

About The Awardee’s

  • Dr. Weiss was born in Berlin in 1932 and came to New York by way of Czechoslovakia in 1939. As a high school student, he became an expert in building high-quality sound systems and entered M.I.T. intending to major in electrical engineering. He inadvertently dropped out when he went to Illinois to pursue a failing romance. After coming back, he went to work in a physics lab and wound up with a Ph.D. from M.I.T.
  • Dr. Thorne was born and raised in Utah, receiving a bachelor’s degree from Caltech and then a Ph.D. from Princeton under the tutelage of John Archibald Wheeler, an evangelist for Einstein’s theory who coined the term black holes, and who initiated Dr. Thorne into their mysteries.
  • Dr. Barish was born in Omaha, Neb., was raised in Los Angeles and studied physics at the University of California, Berkeley, getting a doctorate there before joining Caltech. One of the mandarins of Big Science, he had led a team that designed a $1 billion detector for the giant Superconducting Supercollider, which would have been the world’s biggest particle machine had it not been canceled by Congress in 1993, before being asked to take over LIGO.

Who Won the 2016 Physics Nobel?

David J. Thouless, F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz were recognized for research into the bizarre properties of matter in extreme states, including superconductors, superfluids and thin magnetic fields.

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