Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to three US gravitational-wave scientists
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three US scientists for the discovery of gravitational waves by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. The awardees, Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne, and Barry Barish, were part of the LIGO-Virgo Observatories Collaboration responsible for the detection. Gravitational waves, ripples in the space-time fabric, were first predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awards the Nobel Prize in Physics to those who make outstanding contributions to mankind in the field of physics. Widely considered as the most prestigious award for a scientist, it's presented by the Nobel Foundation. Last year, three British scientists, David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz won the award for their work on exotic states of matter.
Announcing the award, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences stated: "This is something completely new and different, opening up unseen worlds. A wealth of discoveries awaits those who succeed in capturing the waves and interpreting their message."
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 with one half to Rainer Weiss and the other half jointly to Barry Barish and Kip Thorne "for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves". Weiss will receive half of the 9mn Swedish Krona ($1.1mn) prize, while Barish and Thorne will share the other half.
Weiss stated: "I view this (award) more as a thing that recognizes the work of about 1,000 people. It's as long as 40 years of people thinking about this, trying to make a detection, and slowly but surely getting the technology together to do it."
Gravitational waves are disturbances in the fabric of space-time. If you drag your hand through the still water, ripples are produced, and waves follow the path of your hand and propagate outward through the pool. According to Albert Einstein, the same thing happens when heavy objects move through space-time. He first proposed this theoretical concept 100 years ago.
Until LIGO detected gravitational waves in 2015, they existed only in Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity. His theory combined space and time (space-time) and proposed that all objects, from humans to celestial bodies, warp space-time around them. These objects create ripples in space-time when they move. The waves were predicted by Einstein in 1916 as a part of his General Theory of Relativity.
LIGO first detected the gravitational wave signals in Sep'15. The waves came from the collision between two massive black holes. It took over 1.3 billion years for the signals to reach LIGO's observatory in the US that used the most sophisticated detector.
85-year-old Weiss, an experimentalist, largely contributed to LIGO's concept, design, funding, and construction. 77-year-old Thorne is a theorist who predicted what gravitational-wave detection would look like and also helped in the identification of the signals. 81-year-old Barish took over as the second director of LIGO in 1994 when it was on the verge of cancellation and helped in getting it off the ground.