The Selection Committee of the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics chaired by Edward Witten announced a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics on 3 May 2016.
The prize recognizes the scientists and engineers who contributed to the momentous detection of gravitational waves. The detection was announced on 11 February 2016.
It is a 3 million dollar award which will be shared between two groups of laureates: the three founders of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) will each equally share 1 million dollar and 1012 contributors to the experiment will each equally share the remaining 2 million dollars.
The three founders of LIGO are Ronald WP Drever, Caltech, professor of physics, emeritus; Kip S Thorne, Caltech, the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, emeritus; and Rainer Weiss, MIT, professor of physics, emeritus.
The contributors sharing the prize include 1005 authors of the paper describing the discovery of gravitational waves from the numerous institutions involved in LIGO and its sister experiment, the Virgo Collaboration.
Also sharing the prize are seven scientists who made important contributions to the success of LIGO.
The laureates will be recognized at the 2017 Breakthrough Prize ceremony in the fall of 2016, where the annual Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (distinct from the special prize) will also be presented along with the Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences and Mathematics.
Earlier, Stephen Hawking won the Special Breakthrough Prize in 2013.
Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)
• LIGO's gravitational wave detectors were conceived and Research and development was initiated in the 1960s.
• LIGO was built between 1994 and 2002 by Caltech and MIT in partnership with the National Science Foundation of the United States.
• It was with the aim of observing the gravitational waves predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity.
• After a major upgrade from 2010–2015, it almost immediately observed a gravitational wave distorting the structure of spacetime as it passed through the Earth.
• The detected distortion was less than a billionth of a billionth of a meter in size at LIGO's two 4KM observatories in Hanford, Washington and Livingston, Louisiana.
• The wave emanated from two black holes with masses about 30 times that of the sun, spiraling into each other 1.3 billion light years away.
• The discovery inaugurates a new era of gravitational wave astronomy which will open a window onto some of the most dramatic and violent phenomena in nature as well as the mysteries of the early universe.
Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics
The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics recognizes individuals who have made profound contributions to human knowledge.
It is open to all physicists which are theoretical, mathematical and experimental who are working on the deepest mysteries of the Universe. The prize can be shared among any number of scientists.
The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics and the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics are funded by a grant from the Milner Global Foundation.
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