Published: Wed, October 04, 2017
Science | By Tyler Owen

3 share Nobel physics prize

3 share Nobel physics prize

Professor of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA. In the 1970s he analysed possible sources of background noise which could interfere with any future gravitational wave observation technology. More on that later....

Before this Tuesday, Kip S Thorne, the 77-year-old American theoretical physicist whose work on gravitational waves, won him the top prize with two others, was known across the world for helping Christopher Nolan write his 2014 film Interstellar. Weiss recalls that when he first presented the experiment to potential funders at the National Science Foundation (NSF), everyone thought they were out of his mind.

Barry Barish of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Gravitational waves are a whole new way of observing some of the most stormy events in the universe and a sequential test of the boundaries of human knowledge.

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

After LIGO's breakthrough success, he and Weiss were seen as shoo-ins to win a physics Nobel. Scientists split a laser beam and shine the two halves down the two sides of the L. When each half of the beam reaches the end, it reflects off a mirror and heads back to the place where its journey began.

The Ligo detectors are situated 1,865 milesapart in Livingston, Louisiana and Hanford, Washington.

Ripples in the fabric of space-time first predicted a century ago by Albert Einstein, gravitational waves sparked a revolution in astrophysics when their first detection was announced early previous year.

Ironically, Einstein would have been quite surprised because even though he theorized about gravitational waves, he didn't think humans would ever have the technology to spot them.

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Other types of gravitational detectors are being built including one in India.

Glasgow University physicists have been working to prove the existence of gravitational waves for almost 50 years and helped develop sensors used by Ligo. The interference captured as a result of this event led to the successful observation of gravitation wave patterns.

The disruption behind such a shift would need to be enormous, given it is creating waves that move at the speed of light and distort the physical makeup of the universe.

Two years ago, physicists detected for the first time the infinitesimal ripples in space itself set off when two black holes whirled into each other.

The setup for the LIGO experiment looks like a giant L, with each side stretching about 2.5 miles long.

When the two black holes collided, the power of the radiated gravitational waves was 50 times greater than the combined power of all light radiated by all the stars in the observable universe.

The project relied on two facilities in the US separated by 3,000 miles and a third in Italy (VIRGO) because it is unlikely that interferometers located far apart would feel the same local vibrations and the same time.

Staff were not only happy about the recognition of the three key scientists, but also "extremely pleased with the attention on this field of physics and that people are excited about gravitational wave physics", he said.

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