MIT professor wins Nobel Prize in Physics

04 October, 2017, 00:30 | Author: Devin Moran
  • Barry Barish of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.   


Professor Weiss, a retired Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist, was awarded half of the nine million Swedish kronor (£825,000) prize money.

Two US-based instruments working in unison, called the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), detected the first waves caused by colliding black holes.

That event was traced to the merger of two black holes about 1.3 billion light-years from Earth, during which an amount of mass roughly equal to three of our suns was converted to gravitational-wave energy in accordance with Einstein's E=mc equation.

"I view this more as a thing that recognizes the work of a thousand people", Weiss said.

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

Dr Brian Bowsher, chief executive of the UK's Science and Technology Facilities Council, said: "The award of the Nobel today is a celebration of the genius of a vast team of people, including many UK-based scientists and engineers, and it is something everyone in the United Kingdom can share in".

LIGO, which stands for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, consists of two of these pieces of equipment, one located in Louisiana and another in Washington state.

In explaining why the three scientists deserved the honour, the Nobel Prize Committee said: "This is something completely new and different, opening up unseen worlds".

The first of the 2017 prizes was announced Monday with the medicine prize being given to three Americans studying human body clocks.

The 2017 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded today to Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish, and Kip Thorne. "This will teach us about the most violent processes in the universe and it will lead to new insights into the nature of extreme gravity".

The concept is somewhat awe-inspiring.On a small scale, every movement we've ever made has wiggled the physical Jell-o of spacetime that defines everything around us, propelling waves that stretch and squeeze space itself.

"Rai, Kip and Barry launched the LIGO project decades ago and worked very hard to confirm Einstein's theory", said Kalogera, director of Northwestern's Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) and the Linzer Distinguished University Professor in Physics and Astronomy in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

All three are now part of an exclusive club containing 204 previous winners of the Physics Nobel Prize. Weiss and Thorne conceived of LIGO, and Barish is credited with reviving the struggling experiment and making it happen.

A Ligo Scientific Collaboration (LSC) member for more than 15 years, Kalogera is LSC's most senior astrophysicist.

"There's a very loud future for gravitational waves", he said. He argued that every object in the Universe warps the space and time around it, and when an object moves, it creates ripples in this space-time - gravitational waves - a bit like ripples in a pond.

Drever died this year; the Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously.


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