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Weiss, Barish and Thorne win Nobel Physics Prize

04 October 2017

(1.1 million US dollars), with one half going to Rainer Weiss, and the other half to Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne.

Clifford Will, a gravitational-wave expert at the University of Florida, says it was "fabulous" that the Nobel Physics Prize went to three scientists for their discovery in gravitational waves. A gravitational wave passing through the area of the detector causes a momentary subatomic-scale change in the length of one arm relative to the other. They eventually determined that it came from gravitational waves that were generated 1.3 billion years ago. The project took more than 40 years.

Scientists on LIGO and their partner collaboration, called Virgo, reported the first detection of gravitational waves in February 2016.

Announcing the winners in Stockholm on Tuesday, the Nobel committee described Ligo as the "most sensitive instrument ever devised by man".

The Nobel winners and the late Ron Dreyer, also of Caltech, founded the worldwide collaboration of physicists and astronomers known as LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory.

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Three American physicists have won the Nobel prize in physics for the discovery of spacetime gravitational waves.

USA scientists Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne won the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics for their pioneering role in the detection of gravitational waves, prize organisers said on Tuesday. Specifically, the observatories look for the gravitational waves stemming from violent mergers of super dense faraway objects, such as black holes or leftover stellar remnants known as neutron stars.

"With this discovery we can study processes which were completely impossible, out of reach to us in the past", said Ariel Goobar of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

With Tuesday's announcement, the total number of Physics Nobel Prize recipients has increased to 206 (the total number of Prizes is 207; John Bardeen received the award twice).

Weiss won half the prize, with Barish and Thorne sharing the other half. "And all of a sudden, we discovered that the universe was much vaster than we used to think about", Mr Goobar said. Rainer Weiss, 85 was born in Germany and works as a Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. LSU says faculty, staff and researchers are major contributors to the worldwide LIGO Science Collaboration.

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The Nobel Prize for physics follows other honors given to the LIGO collaboration, including the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics and the Breakthrough Prize. "Gravitational waves contain information about their explosive origins and the nature of gravity that can not be obtained from other astronomical signals".

"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". Barish, a Caltech particle physicist who is now 81, replaced the talented but discordant "troika" of Drever, Thorne and Weiss as leader of LIGO in 1994.

"(They are) people who have been thinking about this, sometimes failing and slowly getting the technology together to do this - it's exciting that they're finally doing this", Weiss said, speaking at the conference by phone.

This is the third year scientists from the LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy have been among the scientific research teams involved with the Nobel Prize in Physics.

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Weiss, Barish and Thorne win Nobel Physics Prize