Dr. Rainer Weiss, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics, will present a virtual physics colloquium titled "Beginnings of gravitational wave astronomy: current state and future" at 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5.

 To receive the Zoom link, please contact Dr. Shun Saito, assistant professor of physics at Missouri University of Science and Technology, at saitos@mst.edu by 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5.

In 2017, Weiss, emeritus professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was awarded half of the Nobel Prize in physics. He shared the award with California Institute of Technology professors Dr. Kip S. Thorne, the Richard P. Feynman Professor emeritus of theoretical physics, and Dr. Barry C. Barish, the Ronald and Maxine Linde Professor emeritus of physics.

The Nobel Foundation cited the physicists for their decisive contributions to the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) detector and the observation of gravitational waves.

Weiss, a founding member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, came up with the initial design for LIGO nearly 50 years ago. He has been instrumental in shaping the idea from a small-scale laboratory prototype to the LIGO’s final, observatory-scale form, which consists of two L-shaped interferometers, each about 2 miles long, separated by 1,865 miles. 

On Sept. 14, 2015, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and its European partner, the Virgo Collaboration, confirmed the detection of an almost imperceptible ripple of space-time from a distant part of the universe. It was the first direct observation of a gravitational wave by an instrument on Earth. They further decoded the observation to determine that the gravitational wave was the result of a violent collision between two massive black holes 1.3 billion years ago.

“As a contribution to science, the discovery confirmed the existence of gravitational waves, as Albert Einstein predicted almost exactly 100 years earlier in his theory of General Relativity but assumed that they would be virtually impossible to detect from Earth,” says Dr. Marco Cavaglia, professor of physics at Missouri S&T.

In 2019, Missouri S&T became the state’s only institution to join the worldwide LIGO Scientific Collaboration of researchers committed to detecting cosmic gravitational waves. S&T’s astronomical research team contributes to the exploration of the universe with research in gravitational waves, fundamental physics and cosmology.