Physics Nobel Prize for 2017 awarded to LIGO: Weiss, Barish, Thorne


Left to right: Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne, who have ben awarded the 2017 Nobel prize in physics. Photograph: Molly Riley/AFP/Getty Images

From the New York Times, October 3, 2017. Rainer Weiss, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Kip Thorne and Barry Barish, both of the California Institute of Technology, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for the discovery of ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves, which were predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago but had never been directly seen.

In February 2016, when an international collaboration of physicists and astronomers announced that they had recorded gravitational waves emanating from the collision of a pair of massive black holes a billion light years away, it mesmerized the world. The work validated Einstein’s longstanding prediction that space-time can shake like a bowlful of jelly when massive objects swing their weight around, and it has put astronomers on intimate terms with the deepest levels of physical reality, of a void booming and rocking with invisible cataclysms.

Dr. Weiss, 85, Dr. Thorne, 77, and Dr. Barish, 81, were the architects and founders of that collaboration, known as LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, along with the late Ron Drever, also of Caltech, who died this year.

Dr. Barish, who directed the project from 1994 to 2005, reorganized what had been a brilliant and ambitious, but sputtering, project into a well-managed project of Big Science, laying the foundation for its eventual success.