105: Nobel Prize Winner Rainer Weiss: Feeling Spacetime Shudder: Black Holes, Gravitational Waves and Nobel Prizes!


Rainer Weiss

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MIT Physics Professor Emeritus Rainer Weiss won a 1/2 share of The Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 For his contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves. He was born in Berlin, where his father was a doctor and psychoanalyst and his mother an actress. His father was of Jewish descent, and the family fled Nazism to the United States.

After schooling in New York, Weiss studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received his doctor’s degree in 1962. After a couple of years at Tufts University and Princeton University, he returned to MIT, which he has been associated with ever since. Rainer Weiss is married and has a daughter and a son.

Professor Weiss' Nobel winning work come out of one consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the existence of gravitational waves. These are like ripples in a four-dimensional spacetime that occur when objects with mass accelerate. The effects are very small. Beginning in the 1970s the LIGO detector was developed. In this detector laser technology is used to measure small changes in length caused by gravitational waves. Rainer Weiss has made crucial contributions to the development of the detector. In 2015 gravitational waves were detected for the first time.

00:00:00 Introduction

  • 00:08:00 Concerns about Getting The Nobel Prize
  • 00:12:55 Imposter Syndrome? You too!?
  • 00:18:46 Theorists V Experimentalists pros and cons
  • 00:23:22 Thoughts on STEM Pedagogy
  • 00:27:21 Essential Skills: using your hands and the role of electronics surplus and music.
  • 00:33:39 Dropping Out And Finding MIT and Atomic Clocks
  • 00:35:52 Philosophy of Experimental Science
  • 00:39:44 Thinkng about Einstein-What's his most cited paper and why?
  • 00:40:54 How do you know when to quit an experiment?
  • 00:42:26 On LIGO and the art and science of detecting weak signals.
  • 00:48:02 Did you have doubts about detecting gravitational waves? Thoughts on Eisntein’s original work on general relativity.
  • 01:00:00 The nature of scientific collaborations (and rivalries).
  • 01:21:00 The circular logic of singularity theory. 01:22:38 What if there was no big bang?
  • 01:26:56 Why did your MIT Dean draw a huge zero?
  • 01:28:10 Staying at MIT 01:30:34 What's it like to work on "fringe" projects?
  • 01:33:39 Can experiments get too big?
  • 01:40:00 What would you do with your own billion year time capsule?
  • 01:41:00 What advice would you give your younger self?

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