Nobel Prize Physics winners announced

Phillip Butler
October 4, 2017

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.

German-born Weiss was awarded half of the 9-million-kronor ($1.1 million) prize amount and Thorne and Barish will split the other half.

Weiss, a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made a key contribution to the development and construction of LIGO.

In the mid-1970s, Prof Weiss came up with a gravitational detector design based around interfering laser beams that could overcome the enormous problem of disturbing background noise. More on that later....

Barish and Thorne worked at the California Institute of Technology in Southern California. Planning for the MIT/Caltech observatory began in 1980s, backed by funding from the National Science Foundation. He later became a professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology. The mammoth LIGO-India project, for detecting gravitational waves, completed a year in February. One of them is located in Livingston, La., the other is in Hanford, Wash.

What they did: Ok, let's talk about these interferometers.

Each detector consisted of two 4-km long tunnels at right angles. A beam splitter - a type of mirror - also sits directly in this corner. The waves, which were predicted by Albert Einstein a hundred years ago, came from a collision between two black holes.

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

According to Einstein's general theory of relativity, powerful cosmic events release energy in the form of waves traveling through the fabric of existence at the speed of light.

Q&A What is a gravitational wave? Without having a second detector, there would have been many false positives from things like moving trucks and crashing waves, which would render the detection of gravitational waves impossible.

Weiss says it's unusual to receive money for something you love doing.

The awarding of the prize came after an global team of scientists announced past year the detection of ripples in space-time from two colliding black holes. The waves formed as two black holes-roughly 29- and 36-times the mass of the sun-merged, forming a single black hole. A European sister facility in Italy, known as Virgo, has also detected waves. It took months for the scientists to convince themselves that they had heard gravitational waves, he added. Since their initial discovery two years ago, three more gravitational waves have been documented. By the time they reach our planet, the waves have greatly diminished, needing extremely sensitive instruments, like LIGO's detectors, to pick them up. But even you, dear reader, are creating changes in spacetime.

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