For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.
From Left to Right Rainer Weiss, Ronald Drever and Kip Thorne
Gravitational waves are ripples in the curvature of spacetime that propagate as waves, generated in certain gravitational interactions and travelling outward from their source. Predicted in 1916 by Albert Einstein on the basis of his theory ofgeneral relativity, gravitational waves transport energy as gravitational radiation, a form of radiant energy similar toelectromagnetic radiation. Gravitational waves cannot exist in the Newtonian theory of gravitation, since Newtonian theory postulates that physical interactions propagate at infinite speed.
Gravitational-wave astronomy is an emerging branch of observational astronomy which aims to use gravitational waves to collect observational data about objects such as neutron stars and black holes, events such as supernovae, and processes including those of the early universe shortly after the Big Bang.
The team of scientists and engineers who confirmed the existence of gravitational waves earlier this year have just nabbed a handsome $3 million reward as part of a special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.
The prize will be divvied up between the three LIGO founders, Ronald W. P. Drever, Kip S. Thorne and Rainer Weiss, as well as the other 1,012 people who helped confirm a key part of Albert Einstein's 100-year-old general theory of relativity. In the prize's announcement, internet investor and Breakthrough Prize founder Yuri Milner said of the vast team of scientists: "The creative powers of a unique genius, many great scientists, and the universe itself, have come together to make a perfect science story."
The Prize is a five-year-old foundation that recognizes the world's top scientists in the fields of Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics, as well as New Horizons prizes for junior researchers. The foundation was founded and largely funded by Yuri and Julia Milner, Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Jack Ma and Cathy Zhang, and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan. In addition to the prize money, the foundation also funds research and exploration projects like Breakthrough Listen and Breakthrough Starshot.
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