Winning the Nobel Prize would cap most physicists’ careers. For 2017 winner Rainer Weiss, the prize might not even have been the biggest moment of his year.
The 85-year-old professor emeritus at MIT shared the Nobel Prize for Physics for conceiving and shepherding a set of observatories that allowed scientists to prove Einstein’s assertion about gravitational waves: accelerating objects send ripples cascading through the universe at light speed. The invisible waves are so faint that even the most powerful distort space-time by less than the width of a human hair over trillions of miles. Einstein himself wondered later if they really existed, and doubted they could be detected.