Scientists Amsterdam Science Park contribute to research behind Nobel Prize

Physicists at Nikhef at Amsterdam Science Park made major contributions to the instrumentation and data analysis behind the Nobel Prize in Physics 2017, which has been awarded to Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne. The three winners were recognized for their work on the LIGO-Virgo Collaboration and its groundbreaking detection of gravitational waves, as predicted by Einstein.

Jo van den Brand: “I am very pleased and proud that the Nobel Prize was awarded this year for our research into gravity waves.”

Making scientific history

Jo van den Brand, Professor of Physics at VU University Amsterdam and a researcher at Nikhef

On 14 September 2015, the LIGO detectors (one in Livingston, Louisiana, the other in Hanford, Washington, USA) made scientific history by becoming the first to detect gravitational waves. More detections have followed, most recently at the Advanced Virgo Detector in Italy in August 2017. Nikhef is responsible for the seismic insulation and optical sensors guaranteeing its stable operation.

Jo van den Brand of Nikhef and VU Amsterdam is the spokesperson for the Virgo Collaboration. “I am very pleased and proud that the Nobel Prize was awarded this year for our research into gravity waves,” he says.

Stan Bentvelsen: “The first direct detection of gravitational waves marked the starting point of an entirely new way of listening to the universe.”

“This Nobel Prize emphasizes the huge scientific potential of gravitational wave research,” adds Nikhef director Stan Bentvelsen. “The first direct detection of gravitational waves marked the starting point of an entirely new way of listening to the universe. This required the unrelenting vision of the prize winners and the commitment and dedication of a huge group of experimental scientists, engineers and technicians.” 

In the 1980s, Weiss (MIT) and Thorne (Caltech Theoretical Physics) presented the LIGO (laser interferometer gravitational-wave observatory) concept as the way to detect elusive gravitational waves. Along with Barish, they played leading roles in making the instrument a reality. Along the way, LIGO began collaborating with Virgo, a joint initiative of 20 European research groups including two from the Netherlands (at Nikhef and Radbout University, Groningen).

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