Nobel prizes: Breakthroughs

IT may seem obvious to a child, but not to most adults: If the Big Bang was so violent why do scientists appear to spend time trying to see it rather than hear it?

It is the kind of question only the most brilliant scientists ask, the kind of question that in 1916 allowed Albert Einstein to theorise the existence of gravitational waves — ripples in the fabric of space-time like a wrinkle on a bed sheet.

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, awarded to three Americans who have proven Einstein’s theory, is testament to the monumental feats of engineering, human ingenuity and, most of all, patience that made the breakthrough possible.

Detecting gravitational waves eluded scientists for almost a century until the 2017 Nobel laureates decided to use lasers and to observe the extent to which the waves disturbed the light. It was a stroke of brilliance that made all the difference.

The series of cosmic events leading to the 2017 Nobel began a billion years ago, millions of galaxies away from our own but the detection of gravitational waves is without doubt one of the most remarkable breakthroughs of our time.

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