#LIGOWhen the announcement come of the direct detection of gravitational waves comes, probably tomorrow, should it win a Nobel Prize?
This is very basic physics, core-of-the-Universe type stuff. Something that will be remembered and celebrated 50, 100, 500 years from now.
Clifford Burgess, a theoretical physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, said:
"If this is true, then you have 90 percent odds that it will win the Nobel Prize in Physics this year. It's off-the-scale huge," Burgess told Science magazine.So who should get the Nobel Prize?
|Kip Thorne in 1972|
He did decide to go for it, so this discovery is his as much as anyone's. He worked hard at it for a long time, and LIGO would probably not have come about without him. So he definitely deserves a piece of the prize.
Who else? The Nobel Committee has always been reluctant to award the prize to an organization as a whole, without giving part of it to an individual who led the projects -- think Al Gore and the IPCC, or Carlo Rubbia and CERN -- but I think this should come to an end soon. Collaborations are just too important now, especially in experimental physics -- the projects are too big, and the influence of any one person too small -- for that award structure to continue.
So I'd like to see half the prize got to Kip Thorne, and half to the LIGO research and engineering team, both in Hanford and Louisiana, of course.
If LIGO announces a detection tomorrow morning, this prize could be awarded as soon as this fall, depending on what collaborating evidence might exist, from astronomers or other, smaller, less resolute gravitational detectors around the world. Though I doubt many physicists would immediately doubt the announcement of a detection.