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Gravitational waves: who gets the Nobel Prize?

  1. Feb 11, 2016 #1

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    The deadline for nominations for the 2016 Nobel Prize was the end of January. Since the detection and peer-review of the paper was most certainly done beforehand, who do you think is in line for the 2016 Nobel? My bets are on the three gents who spoke/got mention this morning in Washington:

    Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne, and Ronald Drever

    Your votes?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 12, 2016 #2

    PAllen

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    Too early. They need to wait for consensus. Several years, maybe, but not very long, I think. As to who, that is problematic with these large teams. However, your guess is certainly reasonable.
     
  4. Feb 12, 2016 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    I agree that this is too early. Suppose in a few years time we see hundreds of these events, all freakishly loud, but only from LIGO, and none from the other experiments. Further suppose that these events are clustered in time and do not look Poisson. If that's how things evolve (not my guess, but not impossible either) people will draw a different conclusion about yesterday.
     
  5. Feb 12, 2016 #4
    Since neither someone from the CMS or ATLAS collaboration was awarded a Nobel Prize, I cannot see why one would defend a Nobel Prize for someone from LIGO.
     
  6. Feb 12, 2016 #5

    phyzguy

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    By that logic, the Nobel would go to Einstein, but he's dead. So I agree with the OP - Thorne, Weiss, and Drever. They conceived of LIGO and helped drive it to reality.
     
  7. Feb 12, 2016 #6

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    But there was consensus: the Hanford and Livingston labs independently observed the signal. Sure, they're both LIGO, but they are separate detectors. Replication of the result isn't quite the same here as with, say, observing the Higgs boson. By the way, there is another detection that has been made. It was in December or so, and they're still vetting the data. I haven't heard any other specifics (i.e. whether it was a merger, burst, or pulsar signal), but the earlier rumors that there was more than one signal are true.
     
  8. Feb 12, 2016 #7

    PAllen

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    A consensus among scientists that the measurement and interpretation is valid. That can take many forms (e.g. no one is going to build another LHC to independently verify the Higgs detection), but it takes time. In his case, IMO, further detections, plus time for outsiders to review the data and analysis would suffice.
     
  9. Feb 12, 2016 #8

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    It's a tricky case. For the Higgs, there were tons of events that contained the resonance, and it was verified by two competing experiments. In this case, there was only one lab that could possibly have observed it, but the same signal was seen by two different detectors. The data was analyzed with excruciating detail. One thing LIGO does is to internally peer-review their papers before going to the journals. So, there's already a tiered system of verification. But at the end of the day, you can't argue with a 5.1 \sigma match to the merger template (well, you could, but I doubt LIGO would have let it out if there was even the slightest doubt -- see OPERA and BICEP2...).

    I can't remember if LIGO is sensitive enough to pick up the waves from the Taylor-Hulse pulsar, but that could be another form of "verification".
     
  10. Feb 12, 2016 #9

    George Jones

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    As an undergrad, I fed liquid nitrogen to a "Nobel prize-winning" experiment that was located at the bottom of a salt mine ... or so it seemed that it would be at the time. After a few years, the result disappeared, as understanding and analysis of detector-response gradually evolved.

    I strongly believe that this will not happen here, but this cautionary tale shows that we do need more results, and other eyes looking at the data.
     
  11. Feb 12, 2016 #10
    As if rewarding a Nobel Prize is a MUST.
     
  12. Feb 12, 2016 #11

    Vanadium 50

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    No, that's called coincidence. A time-honored technique - got the 1954 Nobel prize in physics. The LIGO experiment looks for a coincidence between two interferometers. The signal is the coincidence. They don't confirm themselves.

    The Higgs had two different experiments with different technologies. This protects against the possibility of a spurious signal. The other experiments all use different mirror supports. Again, that protects against the possibility of a spurious signal, because only one design is likely to see it.
     
  13. Feb 12, 2016 #12

    Vanadium 50

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    Why not? OPERA and BICEP2 let it out. OPERA's problem was one of message discipline - it does no good to say in public "we need some help understanding the effect" but to have collaborators saying privately "it's real". Had the collaborators claiming discovery kept their mouths shut, the story would be "experiment saw something unusual, asked for help, got it, and the effect went away." The problem was that they tried to have it both ways, and they were widely and IMO correctly criticized for that.

    BICEP is more relevant. Yes, they were looking at a bad patch of sky. But their paper explained exactly where they looked, why they looked there, and what they saw. Nothing wrong with that. It turned out not to be a good place to look, but nobody knew that at the time, and they were completely up front about what they did.
     
  14. Feb 12, 2016 #13

    PAllen

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    Last edited: Feb 13, 2016
  15. Feb 13, 2016 #14

    George Jones

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    If Kip Thorne wins the Nobel Prize, John Wheeler will have supervised the PhDs of two Nobel Prize winners; he also supervised the PhD of Feynman.

    Has anyone supervised the PhDs of two or more Nobel Prize-winning physicists?
     
  16. Feb 13, 2016 #15

    Vanadium 50

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    Arnold Sommerfeld supervised Bethe, Debye, Heisenberg, Pauli and Pauling. Enrico Fermi supervised TD Lee, Rainwater, Steinberger, and CN Yang.
     
  17. Feb 13, 2016 #16

    samalkhaiat

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    It should have been given to Einstein nearly 100 years ago. :smile:
     
  18. Feb 13, 2016 #17

    PeterDonis

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    If a Nobel is eventually awarded for LIGO, those three are who I would expect to get it. But I think, as others have said, that it would be premature to award it in 2016.
     
  19. Feb 14, 2016 #18

    vanhees71

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    That they didn't do because of philosophical quibbles concerning the treatment of time in both special and general relativity. The most influential "anti Einsteinian" at the time was Henri Bergson, who is nearly forgotten completely (on my opinion rightfully, but that's also a prejudice against philosophical speculations unrestricted by empirical facts ;-)). So ironically Einstein got the Nobel prize for the only theory of his which is not valid anymore today ("old quantum theory").
     
  20. Feb 28, 2016 #19
    Against all the odds, http://bit.ly/1Q86PsU [Broken] argues a little bit.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  21. Feb 28, 2016 #20

    JJ Thompson supervised an awesome 8 laureates. To round out his holdings Nobels were awarded to both him and his son George.
     
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