Sci-tech

Scots scientists celebrate Nobel Prize contribution

Scots scientists celebrate Nobel Prize contribution

Three American physicists working on gravitational waves on the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) project has been awarded Nobel Prize in Physics.

LSU Adjunct Professor and MIT Professor Emeritus Rainer Weiss and California Institute of Technology professor emeriti Kip Thorne and Barry Barish have been awarded this year's Nobel Prize in Physics.

All three scientists have played a leading role in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or Ligo, experiment, which made the first historic observation of gravitational waves in September 2015.

Previously described as opening a new window into the universe, the detection of gravitational waves in 2015 confirmed a century-old theory predicted by Albert Einstein, and now allows us to observe the universe's most violent events as ripples in spacetime.

"A wealth of discoveries awaits those who succeed in capturing the waves and interpreting their message". His ideas were then translated, through a series of researchers, including Kip Thorne, Ronald Drever, and Barry Barish, into what would become LIGO.

Each of the six Nobel prizes come with an award of 9 million Swedish kronor ($1.1 million), which is shared when there are multiple recipients. He, Thorne and Barish "ensured that four decades of effort led to gravitational waves finally being observed", the Nobel announcement said. A year later he predicted that a twirling barbell-shaped arrangement of mass-such as two spiraling black holes-should radiate ripples in space that would zip through the universe at light-speed.

The waves detected by the laureates came from the collision of two black holes some 1.3 billion light-years away.

"This year's prize is about a discovery that shook the world", said the Nobel committee representative Göran K. Hansson during a conference in Stockholm today. "It took 1.3 billion years for the waves to arrive at the LIGO detector in the US", said the press release.

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Kip Thorne is a Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at California Institute of Technology. What Weiss, Thorne and Barish did was to build the first machine sensitive enough to be able to directly measure gravitational waves.

Below are reactions from Georgia Tech, including School of Physics Professor Laura Cadonati, who serves as deputy spokesperson for the LSC.

The global LIGO Science Collaboration (LSC) consisting of about 1,000 scientists from universities and research institutes from about 15 countries, including from India, announced the first detection on February 5, 2016 and second one on June 15, 2016.

Why it matters: On an interstellar scale, LIGO found that black holes create tsunamis in space that course across galaxies until they reach the three human-made detectors on Earth.

Artist impression of a black hole merger that produced a gravitational wave.

Weiss, a consummate tinkerer who once flunked out of college, wasn't the first person to think of using an interferometer to try to detect gravitational waves.

Staff were not only happy about the recognition of the three key scientists, but also "extremely pleased with the attention on this field of physics and that people are excited about gravitational wave physics", he said.