Nav: Home

The past, present & future of gravitational-wave astronomy, with Kip Thorne & Rainer Weiss

August 23, 2016

In an extensive interview published online this week, the winners of the 2016 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics discuss their 40-year effort to detect gravitational waves, the elusive ripples in the fabric of space-time that Albert Einstein so boldly predicted. The discussion, with physicists Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss, covers the challenges of eavesdropping on gravitational waves, why their discovery has captured the world's imagination, and what the future holds for astronomy.

"We really are opening up a whole new way of observing the universe, a way that is going to be central to the human race's exploration of the universe around us, not just for years or decades, but for centuries into the future," said Kip Thorne, Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology.

Thorne, Weiss and Ronald Drever co-founded the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, known as LIGO. Last year, for the first time, the LIGO experiment registered the signal generated by the collision of two black holes, confirming a central prediction of Einstein's general theory of relativity. A second detection was announced this past June, ushering in a new era of astronomical exploration.

"The first thing [Einstein] would ask about is probably the technology..." said Rainer Weiss, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which operates the twin detectors. "Einstein would be interested in the rest of it, but mainly, 'How did you do it?'"
The complete interview is freely available at

The three Astrophysics Laureates will be honored at the Kavli Prize Award Ceremony in Oslo on September 6, 2016. The prizes were announced June 2 by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters:

About The Kavli Prizes

The Kavli Prizes recognize scientists for their seminal advances in three research areas: astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience. Consisting of a scroll, medal and cash award of one million dollars, a prize in each of these areas is awarded every two years beginning in 2008.

Kavli Prize recipients are chosen biennially by three prize committees comprised of distinguished international scientists recommended by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the French Academy of Sciences, the Max Planck Society, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society.

The 2016 Kavli Prizes will be awarded in Oslo, Norway, on September 6. For detailed information on each of the prizes, the 2016 laureates and their work, and all the Kavli Prize Week events, please see the Kavli Prize website:

The Kavli Prizes are a partnership between the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, The Kavli Foundation (USA) and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research.

The Kavli Foundation

Related Black Holes Articles:

Supermassive black holes found in 2 tiny galaxies
U astronomers and colleagues have found two ultra-compact dwarf galaxies with supermassive black holes, the second and third such galaxies found to harbor the objects.
Stars born in winds from supermassive black holes
Observations using ESO's Very Large Telescope have revealed stars forming within powerful outflows of material blasted out from supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies.
Did LIGO detect black holes or gravastars?
After the first direct detection of gravitational waves that was announced last February by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and made news all over the world, Luciano Rezzolla (Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany) and Cecilia Chirenti (Federal University of ABC in Santo André, Brazil) set out to test whether the observed signal could have been a gravastar or not.
New research reveals hundreds of undiscovered black holes
Computer simulations of a spherical collection of stars known as 'NGC 6101' reveal that it contains hundreds of black holes, until now thought impossible.
Chorus of black holes radiates X-rays
The NuSTAR mission is identifying which black holes erupt with the highest-energy X-rays.
Did the LIGO gravitational waves originate from primordial black holes?
Binary black holes recently discovered by the LIGO-Virgo collaboration could be primordial entities that formed just after the Big Bang, report Japanese astrophysicists.
A new look at the galaxy-shaping power of black holes
Data from a now-defunct satellite is providing new insights into the complex tug-of-war between galaxies, the hot plasma that surrounds them, and the giant black holes that lurk in their centers.
The energy spectrum of particles will help make out black holes
Scientists from MIPT, the Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics, and the National Research University Higher School of Economics have devised a method of distinguishing black holes from compact massive objects that are externally indistinguishable from one another.
Using gravitational waves to catch runaway black holes
Black holes are the most powerful gravitational force in the universe.
Black holes and measuring gravitational waves
The supermassive black holes found at the center of every galaxy, including our own Milky Way, may, on average, be smaller than we thought, according to work led by University of Southampton astronomer Dr.

Related Black Holes Reading:

The Little Book of Black Holes (Science Essentials)
by Steven S. Gubser (Author), Frans Pretorius (Author)

Dive into a mind-bending exploration of the physics of black holes

Black holes, predicted by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity more than a century ago, have long intrigued scientists and the public with their bizarre and fantastical properties. Although Einstein understood that black holes were mathematical solutions to his equations, he never accepted their physical reality―a viewpoint many shared. This all changed in the 1960s and 1970s, when a deeper conceptual understanding of black holes developed just as new observations revealed the existence of quasars... View Details

Black Holes (A True Book)
by Ker Than (Author)

Describes how black holes form, their different sizes, how scientists find black holes in space, and if anything can escape from its gravitational pull. View Details

Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy (Commonwealth Fund Book Program)
by Kip S. Thorne (Author), Stephen Hawking (Foreword)

Winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics

Ever since Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity burst upon the world in 1915 some of the most brilliant minds of our century have sought to decipher the mysteries bequeathed by that theory, a legacy so unthinkable in some respects that even Einstein himself rejected them.

Which of these bizarre phenomena, if any, can really exist in our universe? Black holes, down which anything can fall but from which nothing can return; wormholes, short spacewarps connecting regions of the cosmos; singularities, where... View Details

A Black Hole Is Not a Hole
by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano (Author), Michael Carroll (Illustrator)

Budding astronomers and scientists will love this humorous introduction to the extremely complex concept of black holes. With space facts and answers about the galaxies (ours, and others) A Black Hole is NOT a Hole takes readers on a ride that will stretch their minds around the phenomenon known as a black hole.

In lively and text, the book starts off with a thorough explanation of gravity and the role it plays in the formation of black holes. Paintings by Michael Carroll, coupled with real telescopic images, help readers visualize the facts and ideas presented in the... View Details

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries
by Neil deGrasse Tyson (Author)

“[Tyson] tackles a great range of subjects . . . with great humor, humility, and―most important― humanity.” ―Entertainment Weekly

Loyal readers of the monthly "Universe" essays in Natural History magazine have long recognized Neil deGrasse Tyson's talent for guiding them through the mysteries of the cosmos with clarity and enthusiasm. Bringing together more than forty of Tyson's favorite essays, ?Death by Black Hole? explores a myriad of cosmic topics, from what it would be like to be inside a black hole to the movie industry's... View Details

Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space
by Janna Levin (Author)

The authoritative story of Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish, and Kip Thorne’s Nobel Prize–winning discovery of gravitational waves—by an eminent theoretical astrophysicist and award-winning writer.

With A New Preface

In 1916, Einstein predicted the presence of gravitational waves. One century later, we are recording the first sounds from space, evidence of the waves’ existence caused by the collision of two black holes. An authoritative account of the headline-making discovery by theoretical astrophysicist and award-winning writer Janna Levin, Black Hole Blues... View Details

Black Hole (Pantheon Graphic Novels)
by Charles Burns (Author)

Winner of the Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz Awards

The setting: suburban Seattle, the mid-1970s. We learn from the outset that a strange plague has descended upon the area’s teenagers, transmitted by sexual contact. The disease is manifested in any number of ways — from the hideously grotesque to the subtle (and concealable) — but once you’ve got it, that’s it. There’s no turning back.

As we inhabit the heads of several key characters — some kids who have it, some who don’t, some who are about to get it — what unfolds isn’t the expected battle to fight... View Details

Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays
by Stephen W. Hawking (Author)


In his phenomenal bestseller A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking literally transformed the way we think about physics, the universe, reality itself. In these thirteen essays and one remarkable extended interview, the man widely regarded as the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein returns to reveal an amazing array of possibilities for understanding our universe.

Building on... View Details

Black Holes: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Katherine Blundell (Author)

Black holes are a constant source of fascination to many due to their mysterious nature. This Very Short Introduction, addresses a variety of questions, including what a black hole actually is, how they are characterized and discovered, and what would happen if you came too close to one.

Professor Katherine Blundell looks at the seemingly paradoxical, mysterious, and intriguing phenomena of black holes. Outlining their nature and characteristics, both those resulting from the spectacular collapse of heavy stars, and the giant black holes found at the centres of galaxies, she... View Details

The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics
by Leonard Susskind (Author)

At the beginning of the 21st century, physics is being driven to very unfamiliar territory--the domain of the incredibly small and the incredibly heavy. The new world is a world in which both quantum mechanics and gravity are equally important. But mysteries remain. One of the biggest involved black holes. Famed physicist Stephen Hawking claimed that anything sucked in a black hole was lost forever. For three decades, Leonard Susskind and Hawking clashed over the answer to this problem. Finally, in 2004, Hawking conceded.

THE BLACK HOLE WAR will explain the mind-blowing science that... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Peering Deeper Into Space
The past few years have ushered in an explosion of new discoveries about our universe. This hour, TED speakers explore the implications of these advances — and the lingering mysteries of the cosmos. Guests include theoretical physicist Allan Adams, planetary scientist Sara Seager, and astrophysicists Natasha Hurley-Walker and Jedidah Isler.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#461 Adhesives
This week we're discussing glue from two very different times. We speak with Dr. Jianyu Li about his research into a new type of medical adhesive. And Dr. Geeske Langejans explains her work making and investigating Stone Age and Paleolithic glues.