Nobel Prize in Physics goes to 'black hole telescope' trio

Janie Parker
October 4, 2017

The trio are key members of LIGO, or the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory - a scientific collaboration that made history when it announced past year the first ever detection of gravitational waves.

LSU's investment in gravitational-wave detection spans more than four decades, and is among the longest of the institutions contributing to the present discovery.

Two years later, we have seen the fourth example of a gravitational wave, with predictions that we could be finding them weekly by the end of 2018. They eventually determined that it came from gravitational waves that were generated 1.3 billion years ago. Botner pointed out that just last week the LIGO team along with scientists at VIRGO, a new gravitational-wave detector near Pisa, announced that all three detectors measured signals that correspond to yet another black-hole merger.

"The first ever observation of a gravitational wave was a milestone - a window on the Universe", said Olga Botner, from the Academy, speaking at the Conference.

"This is something completely new and different, opening up unseen worlds", the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

With Tuesday's announcement, the total number of Physics Nobel Prize recipients has increased to 206 (the total number of Prizes is 207; John Bardeen received the award twice).

Thorne shared the award with Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Barry Barish, also of CalTech for their observation of faint ripples flying through the universe called gravitational waves.

"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". Several more gravitational waves have been detected since then.

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Rainer Weiss, a professor emeritus at MIT, was born in Germany in 1932.

"Some of the first steps on the road to this new field of gravitational wave astronomy were taken here in Glasgow by Professor Ron Drever and Professor Jim Hough and we're proud of having built on that work to evolve into the Institute as we are today".

The leading effort of the 2017 Nobel laureates in developing the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) made observing the gravitational waves possible.

Mr Drever began his scientific career at the University of Glasgow before moving to the USA to work on gravitational wave detection at Caltech.

Black hole mergers are among the few phenomena which create observable gravitational waves. This experiment is essentially a part of the astrophysical implications of Einstein's general theory of relativity.

The scientists in the collaboration are from five continents, over 1,000 in number. Barish, a Caltech particle physicist who is now 81, replaced the talented but discordant "troika" of Drever, Thorne and Weiss as leader of LIGO in 1994. That things had worked out in essentially precisely the way that I had expected.

The prize a year ago went to three British-born researchers who applied the mathematical discipline of topology to help understand the workings of exotic matter such as superconductors and superfluids.

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