Remember last year’s big breakthrough? A team of physicists from LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) proved Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves. This morning, the team won a Nobel Prize for the discovery that shook the world of science #tomorrowmagic
The detection of gravitational waves happened in 2015, but the paper was published in 2016, which is why Rainer Weiss (MIT), Barry Barish and Kip Thorne (Caltech) were eligible for the award just now. While the paper mentioned more than 1,000 authors, these three were lucky enough to split the prize – 9 million Swedish krona ($1.1 million).
Now, to freshen your memory, here is what gravitational waves are all about. Albert Einstein’s original theory talked about ripples in the Universe’s gravitational field, caused when masses changes position. Those waves travel at light speed from that point on but are difficult to capture once they reach Earth (although the collisions that caused them are significant). Thanks to a couple of 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) arms in an L shape that acted as trackers, these waves couldn’t hid, though.
The ones that earned the team a Nobel Prize were caused by the collision of two black holes 1.3 billion years ago. While those were the first ones detected nearly two years ago, the LIGO team mentioned another wave discovery this summer, in August.