LSC Genius Gala honoree Kip Thorne wins Nobel Prize for discovery of gravitational waves

LSC News

Congratulations to LSC Genius Gala honoree Kip Thorne! The physicist, along with Rainer Weiss and Barry C. Barish, just won the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics for the discovery of gravitational waves.

Why is this work recognized by this Nobel Prize so important? Because it confirms a prediction Albert Einstein made more than 100 years ago when he published his “Theory of General Relativity," a prediction he said he doubted could ever be tested. Einstein’s theory is the modern basis for understanding how our universe formed and continues to evolve, so if you're fascinated by the idea of black holes, you have Einstein to thank.

Einstein predicted that when very massive entities – like black holes – collide, those interactions would send out gravitational waves that would travel across space-time. (Space-time is hard to describe because it has 4 dimensions, instead of the usual 3 we deal with every day, but it’s the way physicists describe the structure of the universe.)

But space-time is very stiff, so these waves would actually be very small ripples, and detecting them would be extremely difficult; Einstein thought impossible. What these Nobel Prize winners and their teams did was to build very large – but very precise – pieces of equipment that actually detected those waves. That process required detecting a difference in distance of two beams of light that is .07% the diameter of a proton. Wow!

Congratulations again to Kip Thorne! Of course, we always knew he was a genius. In 2016, Thorne was a honoree at LSC's Genius Gala 5.0. Check out his full speech:

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