2017 Nobel Prize in Physics

At this point, Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss of LIGO have (deservedly) won just about every scientific prize out there, for the first observation of gravitational waves. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t believe they’ll be getting the Physics Nobel tomorrow morning. With an open spot in the usual limitation to three (Ronald Drever passed away earlier this year), perhaps Barry Barish will also get the nod. Most appropriate would be to use the third slot to give an award to the entire LIGO collaboration, but it seems likely that the tradition of not honoring collaborations will continue. There will be a live webcast of the announcement at 5:45am EST available here.

Update: Congratulations to the winners. I think Natalie Wolchover speaks for all science journalists when she writes:

Thrilled they won, thrilled not to spend this morning speed-reading about some bizarre condensed matter phenomenon.

Update: A couple things I’ve learned from comments and other coverage of this:

  • Some physicists have no sense of humor and are either unaware of or ungrateful for the excellent job Natalie Wolchover and others at Quanta magazine have been doing in writing high-quality stories about a wider range of topics in physics than anyone else (see here and here, related here).
  • All evidence is that on October 16th we’ll get announcement of observation of gravitational waves with an optical counterpart, with details at this conference in Baton Rouge.
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53 Responses to 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics

  1. Peter Woit says:

    Kyle MacDonald,
    I think it’s exactly that the popular science press writes about LIGO every few weeks and not about other topics in physics that is what provoked the rant. Wolchover though is an example of someone who does regularly cover topics beyond the high profile things like LIGO.

  2. Kyle MacDonald says:


    Ah, okay. That’s an easier frustration to understand. I couldn’t see how someone could possibly mistake 1) relief that the big annual write-it-in-three-hours physics story is this year already familiar to both science writers and their audiences for 2) general journalistic laziness. Agreed that it’s a thoroughly unfair criticism to make of Wolchover specifically, but I also have sympathy with the general point that some topics get a lot of coverage simply because they’ve already had a lot of coverage.

  3. aaaaaaaaa says:

    Press conferences about the GW observation with EM counterpart seem to start 16:00 CEST/9:00 EDT in several places (at least at the National Press Club in Washington DC and ESO HQ in Garching) on Monday. The announcement says that some 70 observatories took part in the observations, so no wonder there were some leaks.

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