Congratulations to the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics laureates:
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 with one half to
and the other half jointly to
Barry C. Barish
Kip S. Thorne
“for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”
Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves more than 100 years ago and these scientists have led the project to directly find the waves for almost 50 years. The first detection event happened in September 2015. Unfortunately, Ron Drever, co-founder of LIGO and co-inventor of the Pound-Drever-Hall technique that is used to stabilise the laser in the LIGO detector, passed away in March 2017 so could not share the prize.
I have previously written a few short general-public articles here about the detection events: the first event (February 2016; the article also looks at Einstein’s connection with the discovery) and the second (June 2016; implication of black hole spin). In 2016 like many I expected (see in first article) that the 2016 Nobel Prize would go to Thorne and Weiss. They got the prize a year later and shared it with Barish who moulded the entire project, directing LIGO from 1997-2005.
Little known piece of history: Stephen Hawking and Gary Gibbons wrote a paper in 1971 on gravitational wave detection that was quite influential in sowing the seeds of the project. See Bruce Allen’s talk from Hawking 75, the conference celebrating Hawking’s 75th birthday.