Science

Weiss, Barish and Thorne win Nobel Prize for Physics 2017

Weiss, Barish and Thorne win Nobel Prize for Physics 2017

The 2017 Nobel Prize winners in Physics, displayed on a computer screen and are from left, Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barrish and Kip S. Thorne, seen at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm on Tuesday.

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 unusual states of matter that could lead to the development of super powerful quantum computers, among other ground-breaking technologies. The distance allows each detector to ensure that if they record an interference it's not because of something local but gravitational waves.

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

Today, LIGO consists of two observatories-one in Hanford, Washington and another in Livingston, Louisiana.

Gravitational waves are extremely faint ripples in the fabric of space and time, generated by some of the most violent events in the universe.

Ironically, Einstein would have been quite surprised because even though he theorized about gravitational waves, he didn't think humans would ever have the technology to spot them.

Rainer Weiss is professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology while Kip Thorne and Barry Barish both work at the California Institute of Technology.

"There are a huge amount of things ... in the universe that radiate gravitational waves". The next detections might come from the merger of two ultra-dense neutron stars, or a neutron star colliding with a black hole, he said.

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"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.

The worldwide LIGO Science Collaboration (LSC) consisting of about 1,000 scientists from universities and research institutes from about 15 countries, including from India, announced the first detection on February 5, 2016 and second one on June 15, 2016. Barish then brought the project to completion.

A statement issued by the Nobel prize committee said: "The 2017 Nobel Laureates have, with their enthusiasm and determination, each been invaluable to the success of Ligo".

Other Nobel Prizes will be awarded over the next few days - chemistry on Wednesday, literature on Thursday, peace on Friday and economics on October 9.

Glasgow University physicists played a key role in the detection of gravitational waves, a discovery that has changed the way we understand the universe.

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.

Since this discovery, Ligo has observed two more gravitational wave bursts caused by other black hole collisions. The Nobel Prize was awarded for the fundamental discovery of neutrino oscillations and properties. The observation of such gravitational waves fulfilled a centuryold prediction from Albert Einstein and opened up a whole new way to explore the heavens.