Wednesday, 18 October, 2017

LIGO gravitational wave discoverers win 2017 Nobel Prize in physics

LIVE Sweden's Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will start today to announce the winners of the Nobel prize
Delores Daniels | 04 October, 2017, 00:27

The Nobel Prize for physics has been awarded to three scientists who proved Einstein right by observing gravitational waves.

The German-born Mr Weiss was awarded half of the nine-million-kronor (£834,000) prize amount and Mr Thorne and Mr Barish will split the other half.

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

If gravitational waves are at play, the laser light will have travelled a slightly different distance and that variation is detected.

In Feburary a year ago, the Ligo announced they had detected such a ripple, believed to be caused by two black holes colliding. It took 1.3 billion years for the waves to arrive at the LIGO detector in the USA.

"I was so much hoping for this wonderful news", said Vicky Kalogera, a gravitational-wave astrophysicist at Northwestern University who contributed to the historic detections of gravitational waves.

Announcing the winners in Stockholm on Tuesday, the Nobel committee described Ligo as the "most sensitive instrument ever devised by man".

LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, is a collaborative project with over 1,000 researchers from more than 20 countries. It is the first joint detection of gravitational waves with the Virgo and LIGO collaborations.

110 Nobel prize for physics was awarded in 1901 to 2016, among them only two were women.

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.

"It's very sad that one of the UK's gravitational-wave pioneers, Ron Drever, didn't live to see this fantastic recognition of these ground-breaking discoveries".

All three scientists are members of the LIGO/VIRGO Collaboration. In 1915, Albert Einstein explained in his general theory of relativity that gravity comes about when mass and energy warp spacetime, causing freely falling objects to follow curving trajectories. Gravitational waves compress space-time in one direction and stretch it in another, giving one half of the beam a shortcut and sending the other on a longer trip. The fourth gravitational wave, observed on August 14, 2017, was made using two LIGO detectors in the USA - loacated in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington - and the Virgo detector in Italy.

Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For the past 25 years, the physics prize has been shared among multiple winners.

"It's very very exciting that it worked out in the end, that we are actually detecting things and adding to the knowledge through gravitational waves of what goes on in the universe".

"(They are) people who have been thinking about this, sometimes failing and slowly getting the technology together to do this - it's exciting that they're finally doing this", Weiss said, speaking at the conference by phone.

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