Three gravitational wave–detecting scientists win 2017 Physics Nobel

The Nobel prize in physics has been won by three American physicists for the observation of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space-time that were anticipated by Albert Einstein a century ago.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm on Tuesday announced the award of one half of the 9m Swedish kronor (£825,000) prize to Rainer Weiss. Kip Thorne and Barry Barish will share the other half of the prize.

All three scientists have played leading roles in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or Ligo, experiment, which in 2015 made the first historic observation of gravitational waves triggered by the violent merger of two black holes a billion light-years away.

Prof Olga Botner, a member of the Nobel committee for physics, described this as “a discovery that shook the world”.

Einstein’s century-old prediction finally came true with the Ligo detections. According to Einstein, during cataclysmic events the fabric of spacetime itself can be stretched and squeezed, sending gravitational tremors out across the universe like ripples on a pond.