By JIM HEINTZ and DAVID KEYTON
STOCKHOLM — Three scientists on Tuesday won a Nobel Physics Prize for their roles in detecting faint ripples flying through the universe — gravitational waves predicted a century ago by Albert Einstein that provide a new understanding of the universe.
Sweden’s Royal Academy of Sciences announced that the winners are Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Barry Barish and Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology.
The three were key to the first observation of gravitational waves in September 2015. When the discovery was announced several months later, it was a sensation not only among scientists but the general public.
The scientists were honored for a combination of highly advanced theory and ingenious equipment design.
“It’s a win for the human race as a whole. These gravitational waves will be powerful ways for the human race to explore the universe,” said Thorne, speaking by phone with The Associated Press from California shortly after the announcement.
Ariel Goobar of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the winners’ work meant “we can study processes which were completely impossible, out of reach to us in the past.”
“The best comparison is when Galileo discovered the telescope, which allowed us to see that Jupiter had moons and all of a sudden we discovered that the universe was much vaster than we used to think about,” Goobar said.
With the technology that the three developed “We may even see entirely new objects that we haven’t even imagined yet,” said Patrick Sutton, an astronomer at Cardiff University in Wales.
Weiss, in a phone call with the announcement news conference at the Swedish academy, said “I view this more as a thing that recognizes the work of a thousand people.”
Gravitational waves are extremely faint ripples in the fabric of space and time, generated by some of the most violent events in the universe.
The waves detected by the…