UChicago physicist lauds Nobel winners who led efforts to detect gravitational waves

LIGO collaborator Daniel Holz credits trio for scientific leadership

The University of Chicago’s Daniel Holz this morning saluted the three newest Nobel laureates in physics, with whom he worked as a member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. The Nobel Foundation honored Kip Thorne, Rainer Weiss and Barry Barish “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves."

The detection, made Sept. 14, 2015, confirmed a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity. Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of spacetime, and they carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole.

This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed. Gravitational waves from two more pairs of colliding black holes have subsequently been detected.

“I join my LIGO colleagues in warmly congratulating Kip, Rainer and Barry on receiving the Nobel Prize,” said Holz, an associate professor in physics. “Although LIGO has involved the efforts of over 1,000 scientists and engineers, including our UChicago group, LIGO’s success would not have been possible without the early and sustained scientific leadership of these remarkable individuals. I am honored to have worked alongside them, and I am beyond delighted that they have received this well-deserved recognition.”

Holz leads the UChicago LIGO collaboration, which includes postdoctoral fellow Ben Farr (now a professor at the University of Oregon) and graduate students Hsin-Yu Chen (now at Harvard), Zoheyr Doctor and Maya Fischbach, as well as Reed Essick, who started this fall at UChicago as a Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics fellow.