STOCKHOLM: US astrophysicists Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne won the Nobel Physics Prize on Thursday for their discovery of gravitational waves, the Nobel jury said.
Predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago as part of his theory of general relativity but only first detected in 2015, gravitational waves are ‘ripples’ in the fabric of space-time caused by violent processes in the Universe, such as colliding black holes or the collapse of stellar cores.
“Their discovery shook the world,” said Goran K Hansson, the head of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences.
Rainer Weiss has been awarded one half of the 9m Swedish kronor (£825,000) prize, announced by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm today. Kip Thorne and Barry Barish will share the other half of the prize.
The trio have been honoured for their work on constructing Ligo and the detection of gravitational waves.
All three scientists have played a leading role in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or Ligo, experiment, which made the first historic observation of gravitational waves in September 2015.
Since then, the enigmatic ripples have been detected three more times: twice more by LIGO and once by the Virgo detector located at the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO) in Cascina, Italy.
“Gravitational waves spread at the speed of light, filling the Universe, as Albert Einstein described in his general theory of relativity. 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 Physics Prize jury explained.
“Einstein was convinced it would never be possible to measure them. The LIGO project’s achievement was using a pair of gigantic laser interferometers to measure a change thousands of times smaller than an atomic nucleus, as the gravitational wave passed the Earth.”