1,015 LIGO scientists share $3 million prize

Image: LIGO Hanford
The beamlines for the LIGO detector site at Hanford stretch out across the desert terrain of southeastern Washington. Each arm of the L-shaped detector is 2.5 miles long. (Credit: LIGO)

This year’s revelations about gravitational waves are certain to win someone a Nobel Prize someday, but an even richer prize has already been awarded to the scientists behind the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO.

Caltech’s Kip Thorne and Ronald Drever, along with MIT’s Rainer Weiss, are among the winners of a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, worth $3 million. Those three founders of the $1.1 billion LIGO project will share $1 million of the prize. The remaining $2 million will be divvied up among the 1,012 authors ofFebruary’s research paper detailing the gravitational wave detection.

The announcement was made on May 2 by the prize selection committee.

Over the past five years, Breakthrough Prizes have been given out to researchers in life sciences, physics and mathematics. The founders of the prize program include such billionaire tech luminaries as Google’s Sergei Brin, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Russian investor Yuri Milner. (Milner is also behind the recently announcedBreakthrough Starshot mission to Alpha Centauri.)

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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