Nobel Prize in Physics Announcement

Read a Choice Review of a book that documents the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) gravitational wave research that is being recognized.

Gravity’s kiss: the detection of gravitational waves

Collins, Harry. MIT, 2017
408p bibl index, 9780262036184 $29.95, 9780262340038 $20.95

This oddly titled book is a chronology of the deliberations in the gravitational-wave physics community that took place in the months after the detection of a 2015 event by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors in Louisiana and Washington. Predicted by general relativity, gravitational waves are so weak that many doubted they would ever be seen. Serious detection efforts began in the 1960s, notably with the work of Joseph Weber, whose results provoked the considerable skepticism that became a feature of this field. The community eventually accepted the 2015 event as an actual gravitational wave whose source was the “merger of two black holes.” Collins (sociology, Cardiff Univ., Wales) has been involved with the gravitational wave community for most of its existence. His book is a captivating account of how the community went from its default skepticism to accepting that the 2015 data was indeed the actual detection of the passage of a gravitational wave. The book is fascinating in part because of the author’s intimate familiarity with the community and because it illustrates how science works in an environment in which the participants number in the thousands.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; faculty and general readers.
: A. Spero, University of California
Subject: Science & Technology – Physics
Choice IssueAug 2017