Science

LIGO Gravitational Wave Scientists Win Nobel Prize for Physics 2017

LIGO Gravitational Wave Scientists Win Nobel Prize for Physics 2017

The work of Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne crowned half a century of experimental efforts by scientists and engineers.

The Nobel Prize in Physics going to the LIGO architects for their contribution to detecting gravitational waves serves as a major encouragement for Indian researchers to participate in mega science projects and be leaders in them, said an official of the LIGO India project.

Barish and Kip S. Thorne worked on the collaboration between the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), a collaborative project with over 1,000 researchers from more than 20 countries, and its European sister facility Virgo.

Many expected the discovery of the waves to be recognised in last year's Nobel Physics prize, however, it went instead to three British physicists for their work on odd states of matter that could lead to the development of super powerful quantum computers, among other ground-breaking technologies. Detectors have sensed three other gravitational waves since then, all from merging black holes.

The three were key to the first observation of gravitational waves in September 2015.

When the two black holes collided, the power of the radiated gravitational waves was 50 times greater than the combined power of all light radiated by all the stars in the observable universe.

With more confirmed gravitational waves detections, scientists now have another new tool to detect celestial events.

"LIGO's discoveries have opened an unparalleled window into our universe and expanded the boundaries of science".

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Gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time, captured by space detectors can be used to discover when and how some of the universe's largest black holes were born.

Moving forward, astronomers are working on methods for combining gravitational wave data and electromagnetic data to study cosmic sources.

Interestingly, Einstein was convinced that it would never be possible to measure them. Barish led the final design stage, construction and commissioning of the LIGO interferometers in Livingston, La. and Hanford, Wash.

Olga Botner, member of the Nobel Physics Committee at the press conference explained that, "We know the gravitational waves existed, but it's the first time to find them". "We are thrilled for Rai, Kip and Barry to be named Nobel Laureates and are proud of the work done by many people over many decades in the LSC to support and continue their vision". By the time they reach our planet, the waves have greatly diminished, needing extremely sensitive instruments, like LIGO's detectors, to pick them up.

"The 2017 Nobel Laureates have, with their enthusiasm and determination, each been invaluable to the success of LIGO", it added.

The awarding of the prize came after an global team of scientists announced previous year the detection of ripples in space-time from two colliding black holes.

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