The 2017 Nobel Prize for physics was awarded Tuesday to three Americans for their contributions to the study of gravitational waves. He also said that the next generation of gravitational-wave detectors could provide important clues about the early universe.
What does it mean?
The historic announcement in September 2015 that ripples in the fabric of space-time had been traced to the titanic collision of two black holes was widely tipped to be a Nobel Prize victor. The existence of gravitational waves was predicted a century ago by Albert Einstein, who assumed they would be far too weak to ever detect. Space time is the four dimensional array in which events and celestial bodies of the universe are observed. He told the AP that with the technology the scientists developed "we may even see entirely new objects that we haven't even imagined yet". The discovery, which was announced publicly in 2016, confirmed predictions made 100 years ago by Albert Einstein. Several more gravitational waves have been detected since then.
Such an instrument remained a dream until the 1970s.
Watch the MIT LIGO group break into applause as they watch the announcement of this year's #NobelPrize in Physics ... and the award goes to ... Weiss and Thorne conceived of LIGO, and Barish is credited with reviving the struggling experiment and making it happen. The wave first passed the Livingston facility and 7 milliseconds later at Hanford, consistent with the speed of light. The design of these observatories is simple, but their measurements are extremely precise.
The huge observatory consists of two 4km tunnels connected in an "L" shape. Each tunnel is emptied of all air. It made freakish predictions about warped space and time, including the existence of black holes and gravitational waves. The light waves come back in such a way that they cancel each other out and no light reaches the detector. The distortion would only be as wide as a fraction of the width of a single atom.
Normally, the two halves of the beam return at the same time.
The two detectors are thousands of miles apart for a reason.
Artist impression of two colliding white dwarfs and gravitational waves. The remaining 3 solar masses were converted into gravitational-wave energy during the event.
Ronald Drever, a Scottish physicist, who alongside Weiss and Thorne played a leading role in developing Ligo, died in March from dementia less than 18 months after gravitational waves were first detected.
"By combining gravitational wave and electromagnetic observations, astrophysicists will gain new insights into black holes and neutron stars".