Last year I wrote a blog about the 2016 Nobel prize winners, David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz, who won it for “theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter”. And this year the Nobel prize winners were Kip Thorne, Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish for their contributions to the detection of gravitational waves in 2015.
So what are gravitational waves, and why are they important?
I think this video by Sixty Symbols does a good job at explaining this:
In summary gravitational waves are ripples in space-time itself. However, for the these ripples to be significant enough for us to measure, they much be due to massive objects such as black holes. But, after travelling over 1 billion light years, by the time the waves reach Earth they are significantly diminishes. I think it is often underestimated how amazing this discovery is. The precision needed to make this measurement is truly mind blowing. This video by Veritasium shows how remarkable the detection by LIGO was.
Also my quote at the end of this blog is from Albert Einstein, this is because gravitational waves were predicted by his famous theory of general relativity over 100 years ago.
“If you ask me whether there are gravitational waves or not, I must answer that I do not know. But it is a highly interesting problem”