The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics will be awarded to a team of three American scientists whose report helped confirm the existence of gravitational waves.
The winners are Rainer Weiss from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne, both part of the California Institute of Technology. All of them are professors emeritus in Physics.
The three are credited as being the first individuals to detect gravitational waves. These latter were first hypothesized by Albert Einstein in 1915 and are part of his famous general theory of relativity. Einstein’s idea was that the interaction of two massive bodies, such as stars, would result in invisible waves that move at the speed of light and affect everything in their path. However, he conceded that these would likely be impossible to detect.
However, he conceded that these would likely be impossible to detect. At least until now, they continued being impossible to detect.
The FIrst Concrete Detection of Gravitational Waves
The three scientists that got the Nobel Prize are behind the creation of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory or LIGO. Two identical, 2.5-mile long L-shaped detectors are set up across the country from each other.
One of them is in Hanford, Washington, and the other in Livingston, Louisiana. A system of mirrors and lasers can detect any minor changes in their structures caused by gravitational waves, all while filtering out things like seismic forces.
LIGO finally detected such waves on September 14, 2015, about a century after Einstein came up with his theory. To demonstrate how powerful these detectors are, it should be noted that the waves were approximately 1/10,000th an atom’s width, and caused by two black holes colliding 1.3 billion light-years away. Three more cases have been detected in the past years.
The implications of this find are enormous. In particular, scientists believe that this could help us learn about the earliest period of the universe, right after the Big Bang occurred.
The 2017 Nobel Prize ceremony honoring the three scientists will take place in Sweden sometime in December.
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