$3 Million For Scientists Who Detected Einstein’s Gravitational Waves

First Posted: May 05, 2016 05:40 AM EDT

Albert Einstein's theory has finally been confirmed by scientists who detected gravitational waves for the very first time. The researchers who have made this momentous day in scientific history will share a $3 million Special Breakthrough Prize.

Along with many technology pioneers that include Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Sergey Brin, the Russian billionaire Yuri Milner created The Breakthrough Prizes for scientific achievements.

According to a news report on Business Insider, a team of experts from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced in February that the tiny ripples in space and time, which Einstein first theorized a century ago, had been measured by a pair of giant laser detectors, capping a decades-long quest.

Forming part of his seminal theory of general relativity, Einstein had theorized these gravitational waves, showing gravity as distortions in both time and space caused by bodies of matter.

Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne and Ronald Drever, LIGO's three founders, dedicated much of their careers to gravitational wave detection. Finally reaping the fruits of their labor, the three will share $1 million, and the $2 million will be split equally to over 1,000 contributors to the project as cited on Reuters.

"That's much more modern and much more the way that physics gets done. You can't credit just the three of us for this," said Rainer Weiss, who is a professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The collision of two black holes created the gravitational waves according to researchers. These two black holes, which according to Einstein's theory are extraordinarily dense objects, having mass many times the mass of the sun, were approximately located 1.3 billion light years from Earth. These gravitational waves, the researchers believed, lead us to a new understanding about the cosmos.  

"For us to spend basically a half-century since the three of us started working in this field, to have it actually be pulled off successfully in the manner we dreamed - it was really remarkable and wonderful. I'm forever grateful to the team that got it done," said Kip Thorne, who is retired from the California Institute of Technology.

They will be awarded at a December ceremony along with the regular annual awards for physics, life sciences and mathematics. The Special Breakthrough Prize (SBP) can actually be conferred at any time to mark "an extraordinary scientific achievement."

A prominent physicist, Edward Witten, believed that the discovery's magnitude warranted instant recognition. Witten is prominent physicist who heads the physics prize selection committee.  "There are a lot of basic things about Einstein's theory of relativity that seemed like science fiction when I was a student," he said. "This is the first time we've seen the full force of Einstein's theory of gravity at work," Witten added. 

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