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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

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