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Nobel Prize honors physics research done in Louisiana

An LSU adjunct professor was among a team awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics Tuesday for their work detecting gravitational waves, some of which was done in Livingston Parish.

Rainer Weiss, an MIT professor emeritus and LSU adjunct professor, was named in the prize alongside California Institute of Technology professors emeriti Barry Barish and Kip Thorne. Weiss and Thorne co-founded the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO, while Thorne handled its final design and construction in Livingston Parish and Washington state.

The award recognized the LIGO group’s work detecting gravitational waves, predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity but never recorded until now. The waves are “ripples” in the fabric of spacetime, which the LIGO instruments detect as they pass Earth according to LSU’s science blog. LSU owns the land which LIGO was built on in Livingston Parish, and other LSU faculty and students are part of the more than 1,000 members of the LIGO Science Collaboration.

The discovery of how to detect gravitational waves means a better tool to detect distant objects or possibly even new, undetected objects. The first gravitational waves detected by the LIGO interferometers were from a pair of black holes which collided to form a single body, something which happened more than a billion years ago and released a large amount of energy according to LIGO researcher and LSU physics professor Dr. Gabriela González.

González said the team’s next steps are to further sharpen the sensitivity of their interferometers and build more facilities to keep detecting gravitational waves from events like rotating stars in the galaxy.

Image: The Nobel Prize / Twitter



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