Scientists won the Nobel Prize for detecting gravitational waves -- here's why that matters

This year’s Physics Nobel Prize goes to Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne, and Barry Barish for their efforts that helped lead to the first measurement of gravitational waves in 2015 by the LIGO team.

The detection is considered to be the discovery of the century, and even defies Einstein’s expectations, who first predicted the existence of gravitational waves but never dreamed that we’d have the technology to measure them.

LIGO’s first detection of a gravitational wave was a team effort involving hundreds of scientists and engineers who worked together for decades. Among them, Weiss, Thorne, and Barish played a leading role in the design of LIGO, and how to go about detecting the first wave.

Here, we explain what a gravitational wave is and why they’re so important to science.

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