Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 honours gravitational waves discovery

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The first trace at Hanford, Washington state, matched nearly exactly the second at Livingston, Louisiana, 3000 kilometres away.

Rainer Weiss is professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology while Kip Thorne and Barry Barish both work at the California Institute of Technology. Larson and Shahriar also have been mentored over the years by Weiss or Thorne.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has released a statement saying: "So far all sorts of electromagnetic radiation and particles, such as cosmic rays or neutrinos, have been used to explore the universe".

Around 1,000 people have worked on the development of the technology over four decades, according to Weiss and the Nobel committee.

Barish, too, says he's uncertain what to think of the prize. Albert Einstein predicted gravitational waves a century ago.

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. "They are always created when a mass accelerates, like when an ice-skater pirouettes or a pair of black holes rotate around each other", the Nobel jury said. Thorne's contribution in the project was to make key predictions on what the waves will look like and how to identify them. LIGO detects these disturbances when they disrupt the symmetry between the passages of identical laser beams traveling identical distances.

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Other types of gravitational detectors are being built including one in India. The interferometer splits a laser beam in two, and the twin beams hit mirrors that bounce the beams back and forth. The findings of this research has set several records; beside being the first observation of gravitational waves, the complete course of events was the indication that space contains medium sized black holes and they can merge. Although the signal is extremely weak when it arrives to the Earth, it is a promise for a revolution in astrophysics. Gravitational wave astronomy is a way of mapping out some of the most violent processes in the universe such as black hole or neutron star mergers that can not be detected with light or the conventional methods. It took months for the scientists to convince themselves that they had heard gravitational waves, he added.

It has been awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, Stockholm, Sweden. The project was led by Rainer Weiss, now professor emeritus of physics at MIT; Kip Thorne, now professor emeritus of theoretical physics at Caltech; and Ron Drever, who passed away in March. "The black holes are the most obvious but there are many, many others", he said in a telephone call with the Nobel committee.

Ms Rowan said: "We're in the very early, very exciting first stages of gravitational wave astronomy, a whole new way of examining the cosmos". LSU says faculty, staff and researchers are major contributors to the global LIGO Science Collaboration.

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.

"The LIGO detectors are now being upgraded and there will be many more wonderful discoveries to come", she told GeekWire in an email.

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