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Kip Thorne: ‘We first thought the signal was a joke’

For the scientific magazine EOS, Hans Plets, physicist and director of the Einstein Telescope EMR project office, interviewed Nobel laureate Kip Thorne. The observation of gravitational waves was the culmination of a quest that took Kip Thorne almost fifty years. ‘The younger version of myself probably wouldn’t end up in this kind of research today.’

In 1916, Albert Einstein gave a new interpretation to concepts such as gravity, space, and time with his theory of relativity. It would take almost a hundred years before the gravitational waves he predicted were first measured. Theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, together with Rainer Weiss and Barry Barish, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery.

Their discovery didn’t come out of the blue. In 1969, Joseph Weber made headlines worldwide. His measuring device, a bar detector, found evidence for the existence of gravitational radiation. Scientists around the world replicated his instrument, but no one could confirm his result. At the same time, different research groups were working on a detector based on a completely different principle: interferometry.

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