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Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded for the Discovery of Gravitational Waves
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Rainer Weiss, professor of MIT, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish, professors of Caltech, for their decisive contributions which led to the discovery of the gravitational waves. Gravitational waves from a binary black hole merger was detected for the first time on Sep. 14, 2015 by Laser Interferometer Gravitational Waves Observatory (LIGO) in the United States, one hundred years after Albert Einstein’s prediction from the theory of General Relativity.
 
The milestone publication on Physical Review Letters for the discovery was co-authored by members of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) and Virgo-collaboration from more than 30 nations and 100 institutions all over the world. A five-men team in the LSC from National Tsing Hua University led by Prof. Chao Shiuh of the Institute of Photonics Technologies and EE Department participated in the activities for the mirror development of the LIGO detectors and made contribution to the discovery. The research of Prof. Chao’s team was funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Republic of China. Chao’s team includes graduate students Pan Huang-Wei, Kuo Ling-Chi, Huang Shu-Yu, and Cheng Chun.
 
Chao had a close encounter with Weiss and Thorne at the ceremony of the Shaw Prize in Astronomy 2016 in Hong Kong when the prize was awarded to Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne and Ronald Drever who regrettably died in March this year. In Chao’s interactions with Weiss and Thorne he was very impressed with their modest and courteous demeanor, especially how they always give credit to the entire LIGO team. Chao also said that Weiss and Thorne aren’t the kind of scientists that remain sequestered in the ivory tower, as seen in their hands-on leadership style and excellent communication skills.
 
Chao also said that what he admires most about Weiss, Thorne and Barish is their pragmatic views and practices in academic politics, due to which the US National Science Foundation has continued supporting LIGO for over 24 years so far and more than a billion dollars were invested in the project. Chao added that one of the most important things he has learned from the laureates is that in areas of scientific research it’s not enough to have a good idea; you also have to have the ability to persuade others to support it.
 
Chao said that Thorne once told him that when he was young he was strongly interested in music and film, played saxophone and clarinet, and even enjoyed rock music. Thus when Thorne retired at the age of 68 he picked up his early interests, and served as the scientific consultant and producer for the 2014 movie Interstellar, the director of which also has backgrounds in science. The movie was notable for its precise and accurate presentation on scientific facts. While a professor at Caltech, Thorne mentored more than 50 Ph.D. students, including Ni Wei-Tou, now a professor at NTHU and who is also active in the field of gravitational physics.
 
Chao’s team mainly worked on reducing thermal noise disturbance in the laser mirrors employed to observe gravitational waves, thereby making it possible to sensitively capture the "sound of the universe." According to Chao, most of his previous research works were conducted on laser mirrors for application on ring-laser gyroscopes. In 2010 researchers at LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) read about Chao’s previous publications on laser mirrors and invited him to join the collaboration. That’s how Chao’s team became the only Taiwanese research team to participate in LIGO.
 
Not content to rest on their laurels, LIGO’s goal for the next three years is to increase the sensitivity of their instrument by 3 times, and to increase the observation volume by 30 times, so that it will be possible to make an observation once every few days and thus opening the era of the gravitational-waves and multi-messenger astronomy. Chao’s research team is presently working on the development of mirror coatings for the next generation detector operated in cryogenics. Chao said that he was naturally excited and happy to be a part of such a historic discovery and proud to be a member of the team.
 
President Hocheng Hong said that he was very happy that NTHU faculty and students have contributed to this important project, adding that research excellence is a long-standing tradition at NTHU.
 

Chao Shiuh of NTHU’s Institute of Photonics Technologies and EE Department (left) with LIGO pioneers Rainer Weiss (center) and Kip Thorne (right) at the Asia-Pacific Gravitational-Wave Forum held at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2016.

Chao Shiuh of NTHU’s Institute of Photonics Technologies and EE Department (left) with LIGO pioneers Rainer Weiss (center) and Kip Thorne (right) at the Asia-Pacific Gravitational-Wave Forum held at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2016.


The LIGO observatory in Louisiana, USA.

The LIGO observatory in Louisiana, USA.


One of the mirrors at the heart of the LIGO interferometer.

One of the mirrors at the heart of the LIGO interferometer.

LIGO Scientific Collaboration team member Chao Shiuh of NTHU’s Institute of Photonics Technologies and EE Department.

LIGO Scientific Collaboration team member Chao Shiuh of NTHU’s Institute of Photonics Technologies and EE Department.

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