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School of Physics and Astronomy

Congratulations to 2017 Physics Nobel Prize winners

The School of Physics and Astronomy offers warm congratulations to Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish, recipients of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics for their contributions to the detection of gravitational waves by LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory).

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Gravitational waves – ripples in the very fabric of spacetime – are predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, published in 1915; but it took until 2015 for scientists to finally build an instrument that was capable of detecting them. LIGO is able to “see” gravitational waves by measuring minute differences in the paths taken by two lasers placed at right angles to each other. In 2016 the LIGO team announced the first detection of gravitational waves, coming from two coalescing black holes.

Queen Mary has a proud history of cutting-edge work on the properties of space and time as revealed by Einstein’s theories. Today this work continues as cosmologists in the School of Physics and Astronomy develop theoretical models of the Universe, a Universe that we are now able to study by observing gravitational as well as electromagnetic radiation.

Image courtesy Caltech/MIT/LIGO Laboratory