Thursday, February 11, 2016

GR Waves

The detection of gravitational waves is not only a fantastic technological triumph and yet another attaboy for general relativity, but it opens up a brand new window on the universe. Gravitational waves are hard to see - so you got to be good looking - but the apparent source was really powerful, briefly radiating more power in GW than whole galaxies do in light.

From Dennis Overbye's NYT article:

The discovery is a great triumph for three physicists — Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology, Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ronald Drever, formerly of Caltech and now retired in Scotland — who bet their careers on the dream of measuring the most ineffable of Einstein’s notions.

I'm pretty sure Thorne's career was solid before, but he and colleagues should get the Nobel Prize pronto. Thorne is also an author of the influential textbook, Gravitation, the wonderful popular book on general relativity, Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy, as well as other books technical and popular. In addition he was the godfather and an executive producer of the movie Interstellar.

The paper announcing the discovery has more than 1000 co-authors, and LIGO cost $1 billion plus.

As Thorne points out, this is our first good look at gravity in the strong field regime.

A friend who was a student at Caltech with Thorne claims that he, Thorne, used to say that his IQ was only 140, but he was very well organized.