Published: Wed, October 04, 2017
Science | By Cecil Little

LIGO India cheers Physics Nobel for gravitational waves discovery

LIGO India cheers Physics Nobel for gravitational waves discovery

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 was divided, one half awarded to Rainer Weiss, the other half jointly to Barry C Barish and Kip S Thorne. A gravitational wave passing through the area of the detector causes a momentary subatomic-scale change in the length of one arm relative to the other.

They are receiving the prize for the discovery of the gravitational waves released by violent events in the universe such as the mergers of black holes. The waves were generated in the collision of two black holes with 29 and 36 times the mass of the sun 1.3 billion years ago.

A fourth detection was made together with a similar European facility, Virgo, near Pisa in Italy, that joined the global hunt for gravitational waves in August this year.

Announcing the winners in Stockholm on Tuesday, the Nobel committee described Ligo as the "most sensitive instrument ever devised by man". A third interferometer, operated by the Virgo collaboration, recently joined LIGO to make the first joint observation of gravitational waves.

LIGO was considered the odds-on favorite for this year's Nobel Prize in physics, but the laureates didn't get the official word until early today.

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Three U.S. -based scientists won the Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for detecting faint ripples flying through the universe - the gravitational waves predicted a century ago by Albert Einstein.

Weiss said the award of the 9 million Swedish crown ($1.1million) prize was really a recognition of around 1,000 people working on wave detection.

Barry Barish, one of the scientists sharing this year's Nobel Physics Prize, said he had set an alarm in anticipation of a call from the Nobel team - though when it did come it beat his alarm. Theoretical physicist Professor Thorne, from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and Professor Barish, a former Caltech particle physicist, also now retired, shared the rest of the prize.

It is "a milestone, opening a window to the unknown universe". Meanwhile, across the country at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's fabled "Plywood Palace", Weiss, now 85, came up with the concept for how to detect them. It took months for the scientists to convince themselves that they had heard gravitational waves, he added.

The first detection of the waves created a scientific sensation when it was announced past year and the teams involved had been widely seen as favourites for the prize.

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The discovery can pave the way for proving the general theory of relativity, so that we can look deeper and deeper into the universe.

It was in collaboration with Barish, the scientist and leader of the LIGO project who saw it to completion, that their decades of research finally led to irrefutable proof. That things had worked out in essentially precisely the way that I had expected.

The Nobel Prize will be handed out on December 10 on the anniversary of the death of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who created the award in 1895.

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.

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