Riding Waves

Two Caltech professors among three scientists to win Nobel Prize in Physics

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three key players in the development and ultimate success of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO). One half of the prize was awarded jointly to Caltech’s Barry C. Barish, the Ronald and Maxine Linde Professor of Physics, Emeritus, and Kip S. Thorne, the Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus. The other half was awarded Rainer Weiss, professor of physics, emeritus, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

On Sept. 14, 2015, the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded LIGO made the first-ever direct observation of gravitational waves — ripples in the fabric of space and time predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years earlier. Each of the twin LIGO observatories — one in Hanford, Washington, and the other in Livingston, Louisiana —picked up the feeble signal of gravitational waves generated 1.3 billion years ago when two black holes spiraled together and collided.

Two additional detections of gravitational waves, once again from merging black-hole pairs, were made on Dec. 26, 2015, Jan. 4, 2017 and on Aug. 4, 2017. On Aug. 14, 2017, a fourth event was detected by LIGO and the European Virgo gravitational-wave detector.

The detections ushered in a new era of gravitational-wave astronomy. LIGO and Virgo provided astronomers with an entirely new set of tools with which to probe the cosmos. Previously, all astronomy observations have relied on light — which includes X-rays, radio waves and other types of electromagnetic radiation emanating from objects in space — or on very-high-energy particles called neutrinos and cosmic rays. Now, astronomers can learn about cosmic objects through the quivers they make in space and time.

The Nobel Prize recognizes Weiss, Barish and Thorne for their “decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves.”

The official announcement was made Tuesday at a press conference held at Caltech’s Athenaeum Club.

Bounty of Books

Sierra Madre and La Canada Fliñtridge libraries host upcoming book sales

October is a great month for buying classic books from area libraries, as the Friends of the Sierra Madre Library offers their October Book Sale from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the library, located at 440 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre.

Meanwhile, the Friends of the La Cañada Flintridge Public Library present their semi-annual book sale from Oct. 18-21 at the library, 4545 Oakwood Ave., La Cañada Flintridge.

The Sierra Madre sale will feature an Edward Gorey book collection, as well as books on ceramics and pottery, in addition to coffee table books on art, cooking, history and contemporary culture. The library will also feature a buy one, get one free sale for books of equal or lesser value in its cookbook, gardening, decorating and craft shelves.

A large selection of children’s books will be priced from 25 cents to $1 in the parking lot, plus bargain books for only $1 each and small paperbacks 25 cents each or 5 for $1.

All the fun takes place behind the library in the parking lot and basement at 440 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. All proceeds benefit the services, acquisitions and programs of the Sierra Madre Library.

The La Cañada Flintridge Public Library book sale will sell books for $2 apiece, with bags of books offered on Oct. 20 for $1 per bag. Money raised will supply new equipment, books and programs for the library. Sale hours are 2 to 7 p.m. Oct. 18, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 19, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 20, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 21.  n