It was handshakes and hugs all around at the Livingston Parish observatory Tuesday where gravitational waves were first detected in 2015 as key scientists involved were notified they received the most prestigious prize in all of physics.
The Nobel Physics Prize for 2017 was awarded to three scientists behind an experiment stretching over decades that yielded proof of Einstein's theory of relativity and is now helping scientists locate black holes in the universe.
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory in Livingston and staff played a critical role in the discovery. Researchers working there first recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light years away.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, in a prepared statement, noted that “LSU physicists right here in Louisiana grabbed international headlines when this monumental discovery was made for the first time.”
He congratulated LSU’s Adjunct Professor Rainer Weiss, who is also a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as California Institute of Technology professors Kip Thorne and Barry Barish, on the Nobel Prize honor.
“LSU’s investment in gravitational-wave detection spans more than four decades across the development of several generations of gravitational wave detectors meaning a whole team of LSU scientists, staff and students helped make this discovery possible,” Edwards added.
The Nobel Prize announcement prompted plenty of excitement at the LIGO facility in Livingston Parish and among those involved in the effort.
"People are going around shaking each other's hands, hugging each other," said Richard Oram, operations manager at LIGO. "It's definitely special today."
The announcement comes just days after the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which also includes centers in Washington and Italy, reported a fourth gravitational detection, and during a downtime when Livingston engineers are upgrading sensors to detect even more subtle waves during a year-long observation to begin in about a year, Oram said.
A team of international scientists, including a group from LSU, has made another monumental …
"It's very ecstatic right now," said William Parker, a New Orleans native and Southern University graduate, who was on-call as a detector operator the night of the first big gravitational detection in 2015 and called the award a "childhood dream come true."
"We have a Nobel Prize here, and it was detected in Louisiana," he said. "Think about that for a minute."
William Parker was nearly seven hours into a routine shift in the Livingston control room wh…
Leaders at LIGO said they are hopeful the prize will bring more visibility, talent and funding to the science being done 30 miles outside of Baton Rouge.
"I think the recognition helps with the chances, the prospects for future funding for upgrades to LIGO," Oram said. "It helps make the case for the science we're doing."
Gabriela Gonzalez, a LSU physics professor and former spokeswoman for the collaboration, said the award is a boon for the school, which owns the land under LIGO and supplies professors and graduate students to the project.
"We're all hoping it brings visibility not just to LSU, but to science at LSU. Nobel Prize-winning science is being done at LSU," she said.
It's also recognition for the parish, which advocated for the 4-kilometer-long apparatus to move into rural Livingston in the 1990's.
Decades before the detection of ripples in space-time announced this month, a group of physi…
David Bennett, president and CEO of the Livingston Economic Development Council said the center has brought some jobs to the parish, but its biggest benefit has been the publicity and uniqueness of the project.
"It helps to put Livingston Parish on the map," he said.