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Contact:  Emily Pappas

National Photonics Initiative Congratulates US Scientists on Nobel Prize-Winning Research

Washington, DC – October 3, 2017 – The National Photonics Initiative (NPI), an alliance of top scientific societies uniting industry and academia to raise awareness of photonics, today congratulated Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne, this year’s winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics, for their discovery of gravitational waves observed by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO).
Confirming Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, this discovery was made possible by the creation of photonics-enabled ultra-precise laser-based interferometers used to measure gravitational waves. The advanced LIGO instrument is capable of making the most precise distance measurements ever recorded; it can detect the change in spacing between two mirrors separated by over 2.5 miles to a precision of much less than one trillionth the diameter of a human hair.
In response to news of Drs. Weiss, Barish and Thorne’s Nobel Prize-winning discovery, NPI Chairman Ed White issued the following statement:
“On behalf of the National Photonics Initiative, I wish to extend my sincere congratulations to Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne on being named this year’s recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics for their enormous contribution to science. The groundbreaking discovery of gravitational waves is one of the most significant in physics during the past century, and the Nobel Prize signifies the importance of this historic accomplishment. 
This marks the second year in the last three in which optics and photonics—the science and application of light—has enabled a scientific discovery awarded with a Nobel Prize in Physics. Optics and photonics is advancing our basic understanding of the world in which we live through scientific innovation. Our community is proud to have played a role in LIGO, and stands in admiration of these three pioneers for their role in capturing the most momentous physical measurements to date.”
In their recognition of the project, the Nobel awarding committee acknowledged the more than 1,000 individuals from 20 different countries that are closely involved in this effort. With facilities near Livingston, LA and Hanford, WA, LIGO is operated by Caltech and MIT with support from 150 institutions in the United States, Germany, Australia, and around the globe, and funding provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

About the NPI: The National Photonics Initiative (NPI) is a collaborative alliance among industry, academia and government to raise awareness of photonics and the impact of photonics on our everyday lives; increase cooperation and coordination among US industry, government and academia to advance photonics-driven fields; and drive US funding and investment in areas of photonics critical to maintaining US economic competitiveness and national security. The initiative is being led by top scientific societies including the American Physical Society (APS), the IEEE Photonics Society, the Laser Institute of America (LIA), The Optical Society (OSA) and SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics. For more information visit