Science & Technology

Nobel Prize for physics awarded for gravitational waves detection

Scientists Rainer Weiss and Kip Thorne, together with Barry Barish, whose effort led to the discovery 100 years it was theorised by Albert Einstein, have recieved the award

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 04 October 2017

(Left to Right) Rainer Weiss,Barry Barish and Kip Thorne (Credit: Nobel Media)

Hundred years after Albert Einstein’s prediction of the presence of gravitational waves in his Theory of Relativity, a team of scientists at the LIGO detector in USA detected these waves, which came after a collision between two black holes.

For their discovery of the gravitational waves in September 2015, scientists Rainer Weiss and Kip Thorne, together with Barry Barish, have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics this year. They brought the project to completion and ensured that four decades of effort led to gravitational waves finally being observed, a statement on the official website said.

In the mid-1970s, Rainer Weiss had already analysed possible sources of background noise that would disturb measurements, and had also designed a detector, a laser-based interferometer, which would overcome this noise. Early on, both Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss were firmly convinced that gravitational waves could be detected and bring about a revolution in our knowledge of the universe.

Why the discovery is important

In 1915, Albert Einstein theorised the existence of tiny ripples in the space-time fabric of the universe due to objects accelerating in the gravitational field. But Einstein thought these waves would remain in the realm of hypotheses as the waves would be too small for humans to capture and study. 

But by developing the Advanced Laser Interfero-meter Gravitational-Wave Observator (LIGO) over decades, the first gravitational waves was observed, which were caused by the merging of two black holes 1.3 billion light years away.

The detection could lead to the opening up of an entirely new discipline of science—gravitational astronomy that would depend purely on gravitational waves, just as radio waves engendered radio astronomy.

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