Nobel Prize for Physics, 2017 – Indian Connection 

The 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics has been conferred to three scientists namely Rainer Weiss, Barry C Barish & Kip S Thorne under the LIGO Project for their discovery of gravitational waves, 100 years after Einstein’s General Relativity predicted it. The Nobel Prize for Physics 2017 celebrates the direct detection of Gravitational waves arriving from the merger two large Black holes in a distant galaxy a Billion of light years away. Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. This opens a new window to Astronomy since Gravitational Waves are an entirely new way of observing the most violent events in space.

This is a proud moment for India also, since the discovery paper has 39 Indian authors/scientists from nine institutions-, CMI Chennai, ICTS-TIFR Bengaluru, IISER-Kolkata, IISER-Trivandrum, IIT Gandhinagar, IPR Gandhinagar, IUCAA Pune, RRCAT Indore and TIFR Mumbai. primarily funded through individual/ institutional grants by Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Science & Technology and Ministry of Human Resource Development AE, DST and MHRD, who are co-authors of this discovery paper.

The group led by Bala Iyer (currently at ICTS-TIFR) at the Raman Research Institute in collaboration with scientists in France had pioneered the mathematical calculations used to model Gravitational Wave signals from orbiting black holes and neutron stars. Theoretical work that combined black holes and gravitational waves was published by C. V. Vishveshwara in 1970. These contributions are prominently cited in the discovery paper.

Late Professor CV Vishveshvara of RRI, Bengaluru (DST AI) and Professor SV Dhurandhar of IUCAA, Pune and some other Indian scientists made seminal contributions to this field which contributed towards the principles behind the LIGO Detector.

 

An opportunity for India taking leadership in this field has opened up with the LIGO-India mega-science project that was granted ‘in principle’ approval by the Union Cabinet on Feb 17 2016. LIGO-India brings forth a real possibility of Indian scientists and technologists stepping forward, with strong international cooperation, into the frontier of an emergent area of high visibility and promise presented by the recent GW detections and the high promise of a new window of gravitational-wave astronomy to probe the universe.

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