UWM team contributes to Nobel Prize win

Posted at 3:28 PM, Oct 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-03 19:20:35-04

A huge discovery in the study of the universe just won the Nobel Prize in Physics and a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee played a key role in the work. 

The leaders of the UWM team are Patrick Brady, Jolien Creighton, Alan Wiseman and Xavier Siemens and they helped process the data and confirm the discovery. 

"What we're doing really is opening a new window into astronomy," Siemens said, who has personally spent 15 years on this project. 

He says the discovery involves the first ever detection of a gravitational wave, from when two massive black holes collided, each 30 times the size of our sun. 

"So these two black holes merged 1.3 billion years ago and those gravitational waves traveled to us," he said. "I think that sort of inspires a sense of awe and a sense of wonder in our place in the universe." 

The discovery is considered a milestone in science and confirms a prediction made by Albert Einstein more than 100 years ago in his theory of relativity. 

The work involved in this discovery began in the 1970s. 

Siemens says UWM's support of this project was instrumental in its success and he's excited to see what else they discover. 

"It's a new way to look at the universe so we'll probably be surprised by what we see," he said. 

The Nobel Prize itself goes to Rainer Weiss from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Kip Thorne and Barry Barish from California Institute of Technology. 

The four members of the UWM team are former post-doctoral researchers under Thorne. 

The research and discovery was done through the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, supported by the National Science Foundation. 

More than 1,000 people across the world had a role in the discovery. 

This work is one of three major experiments the team at UWM is working on, including one that involves radio telescopes. 

A public lecture will be held Friday, Oct. 6 at 8 p.m. with more information about their work. The lecture will be in the atrium of the Kenwood Interdisciplinary Research Complex at 3135 N. Maryland Ave.