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Nobel prize for gravitational wave detection: Who, What, When, Where and How

04 October 2017
Nobel prize for gravitational wave detection: Who, What, When, Where and How

"Their discovery shook the world", said Goran K Hansson, the head of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences which selects the Nobel recipients. Maybe one day, this knowledge will lead to hyperdrive transportation, uncover how black holes form or reveal the origins of the universe, but for now, it's just kind of cool. The scientists met with local hunting clubs, and made one simple request: "Don't shoot the observatory".

"I thought I would be blasé but in fact I was overwhelmed", Thorne said.

For years, physicists tried to find ways to detect ripples in the fabric of space-time.

The waves were predicted by Einstein a century ago as part of his theory of general relativity. More than three decades later, in September 2015, LIGO's two giant detectors recorded gravitational waves for the first time. "It's really a dedicated effort that has been going on, I hate to tell you, for as long as 40 years, people trying to make a detection in the early days and then slowly but surely getting the technology together to do it".

The LIGO project is a collaborative project with over one thousand researchers from more than 20 countries including India. It also throws up the possibility of detectors that can look at the beginning of the universe.

Moving forward, astronomers are working on methods for combining gravitational wave data and electromagnetic data to study cosmic sources. "The stretching and squishing changes the tunnels' lengths by a tiny amount, and that change can be detected by lasers".

Barry Barish, a former particle physicist at California Institute of Technology (now emeritus professor) is widely credited for getting the experiment off the ground.

Currently, Indian participation in the global LIGO Science Collaboration, has over 60 researchers, constituting five of the members of the LSC, making it the fourth largest national participant.

"It's insane that we happen to have a country where it depends on what political party you are in whether you believe in climate change or not", Barish said. "Things that have nothing to do with what we already know".

Kip Thorne making the announcement a year ago.

While only three men are receiving the award today, Cadonati says many within LIGO feel as though they are being awarded with the prize as well. The winners will visit Sweden for an official ceremony in December.

The Berlin-born Weiss, 85, gets half the prize. After his family fled the Nazis, he grew up in New York City. He has taught at MIT since 1964.

Thorne, 77, received his doctorate from Princeton University in 1965 and joined Caltech in 1967. He lives in Pasadena.

Barish, 81, was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and grew up in Los Angeles, the son of Lee and Harold Barish, the children of Polish immigrants to the United States. 1962 from University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. He lives in Santa Monica.

The 2016 Nobel prize in Physics was awarded one-half to David J. Thouless, and the other half to F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz "for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter".