Scientists who developed Einstein's work on gravitational waves win Nobel Prize

Three scientists have been awarded the 2017 Nobel Physics Prize for their discoveries relating to gravitational waves, helping develop a theory first aired by Albert Einstein.

Scientists who developed Einstein's work on gravitational waves win Nobel Prize

Three scientists have been awarded the 2017 Nobel Physics Prize for their discoveries relating to gravitational waves, helping develop a theory first aired by Albert Einstein.

Sweden's Royal Academy of Sciences announced that the winners are Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Barry Barish and Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology.

The three were key to the first observation of gravitational waves in September 2015.

When the discovery was announced several months later, it was a sensation not only among scientists but the general public.

Gravitational waves are extremely faint ripples in the fabric of space and time, generated by some of the most violent events in the universe.

Goran K Hansson, centre, Secretary General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, announces the 2017 Nobel Prize winners in Physics, from top left, Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barrish and Kip S. Thorne.
Goran K Hansson, centre, Secretary General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, announces the 2017 Nobel Prize winners in Physics, from top left, Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barrish and Kip S. Thorne.

Mr Weiss, in a phone call with the news conference at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said: "I view this more as a thing that recognises the work of a thousand people."

Gravitational waves were predicted by Einstein a century ago as part of his theory of general relativity.

General relativity said gravity is caused by heavy objects bending space-time, which itself is the four-dimensional way that astronomers see the universe.

The waves detected by the laureates came from the collision of two black holes some 1.3 billion light-years away.

A light-year is about 5.88 trillion miles.

LIGO co-founder Kip Thorne speaks during a news conference in Washington to announce that scientists have finally detected gravitational waves.
LIGO co-founder Kip Thorne speaks during a news conference in Washington to announce that scientists have finally detected gravitational waves.

The German-born Weiss was awarded half of the nine-million-kronor (€940,000) prize amount and Mr Thorne and Mr Barish will split the other half.

For the past 25 years, the physics prize has been shared among multiple winners.

More in this section

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox