UofG congratulates Nobel Prize Winners for gravitational wave research

Gravitational wave physicists at the University of Glasgow are celebrating the announcement of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics.

The Nobel Committee announced in Stockholm today (Tuesday 3 October) that the €950,000 prize will be presented to Rainer Weiss (MIT), Barry C. Barish (Caltech)  and Kip S.Thorne (Caltech) for their achievements in gravitational wave research. Each of them played a key role in the historic first direct detection of gravitational waves in September 2015, which established the new field of gravitational wave astronomy.

Both Professor Thorne and Professor Barish are recipients of honorary degrees from the University of Glasgow. Professor Thorne received his honorary degree in 2001, and Professor Barish was presented with his in 2013.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow’s Institute for Gravitational Research (IGR) are part of the international LIGO Scientific collaboration, and with their colleagues around the globe have made significant contributions to the research initiated by the three new Nobel laureates.

Professor Sheila Rowan, director of the Institute for Gravitational Research, said: “The first direct detection of gravitational waves two years ago were built on decades of work by thousands of scientists around the world, but I’m thrilled that the Nobel Committee has recognised Rai, Barry and Kip’s pioneering work. Their brilliance and ingenuity helped make an extremely ambitious project work and their Nobel prize is immensely well-deserved.

“Since that first detection just over two years ago, we’ve found signals from the collision of three more pairs of black holes. A worldwide network of gravitational wave detectors is now coming into being with the addition of the Italian Virgo detector alongside the LIGO detectors.

“We’re in the very early, very exciting first stages of gravitational wave astronomy, a whole new way of examining the cosmos. It’s much less likely we’d be able to probe the universe this way without the work of Weiss, Barish and Thorne.

“Along with our UK partners at the University of Birmingham, Cardiff University, the University of Strathclyde, and the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory amongst others, we’re very much looking forward to pushing back the boundaries of our understanding of the universe.”

Professor James Hough, Associate Director of the IGR, said “I’m proud to have worked with my colleagues in LIGO honoured by the committee, leading to the birth of gravitational wave astronomy.”

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said: “The world-leading expertise of our School of Physics and Astronomy and Institute for Gravitational Research owes a debt to the pioneering work of Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish.  

“My colleagues have thrived on this dynamic area of research and it’s exciting to witness Glasgow’s role in gravitational wave studies of our cosmos continuing to flourish and develop into the future.”

First published: 3 October 2017

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