editorial Ripples in spacetime
It is, frankly, difficult to find something original to say about the detection of gravitational waves that hasn’t been said already. The technological feat of measuring fluctuations in the fabric of spacetime less than one-thousandth the width of an atomic nucleus is quite simply astonishing. The scientific achievement represented by the confirmation of a century-old prediction by Albert Einstein is unique. And the collaborative effort that made the discovery possible — the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) — is inspiring. Adapted from Phys. Rev. Lett. 116, 061102 (2016), under Creative Commons Licence. Rainer Weiss and Kip Thorne were, along with the late Ronald Drever, founders of the project that eventually became known Barry Barish, who was the director Last month we received a spectacular as LIGO. In the 1960s, Thorne, a black hole of LIGO from 1997 to 2005, is widely demonstration that talk of a new era expert, had come to believe that his objects of credited with transforming it into a ‘big of gravitational astronomy was no interest should be detectable as gravitational physics’ collaboration, and providing the exaggeration. Cued by detections at LIGO waves. Separately, and inspired by previous organizational structure required to ensure and Virgo, an interferometer based in Pisa, proposals, Weiss came up with the first it worked. Of course, the passion, skill and Italy, more than 70 teams of researchers calculations detailing how an interferometer dedication of the thousand or so scientists working at different telescopes around could be used to detect them in 1972. By that worked on LIGO over many decades the world confirmed the observation of the early 1980s they had joined forces with was essential to its scientific success — an a neutron-star merger. A slew of papers Drever to work on the giant twin detectors aspect all three laureates and the Nobel published on 16 October reported the that would eventually be set up in Livingston, committee itself have been keen to stress. electromagnetic counterpart to the Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. The discovery of GW150914 (pictured), gravitational-wave detection. This not only required scientific and the echo from a collision of two black These observations simultaneously technological vision, but also political skill holes about 1.3 billion light years away, solve a number of outstanding problems, and pragmatism to get the project funded caused a media sensation when it was including the origin of the heavier elements by the US National Science Foundation (and announced in February last year. It was, of the periodic table. It is difficult to imagine eventually by an international consortium of rightly, heralded as the dawn of a revolution that this is the last time that ripples of funding agencies). in astrophysics. spacetime will reach Stockholm. ❐
Presenting an Insight on quantum materials.
At Nature Physics we enjoy putting together and Betty Moore Foundation and the physics and materials science know a the occasional Insight consisting of a Simons Foundation. Thanks to their support, quantum material when they see one. This number of authoritative Reviews covering we are able to offer free online access of the Insight attempts to define the field in more an important topic in physics. This month, Insight for twelve months, in addition to detail by examining the physics of quantum we’ve joined forces with Nature Materials to distributing print copies at the upcoming materials, their synthesis and design, the produce an Insight on quantum materials Materials Research Society fall meeting in control over their properties, and the (http://go.nature.com/2hNXJHa) — an Boston and the American Physical Society functionality they give rise to. emerging theme that we’ve already picked March meeting in Los Angeles. Of course we cannot hope to provide a up on in the recent past (Nat. Phys. 12, Finding a definition for quantum fully comprehensive overview of the entire 105; 2016). materials that is unanimously agreed on is field in a single supplement, but we do We are particularly pleased to tricky, but it seems like a growing number hope it will prove an inspiring reflection of acknowledge our sponsors, the Gordon of scientists working at the frontiers of the field. Enjoy. ❐
NATURE PHYSICS | VOL 13 | NOVEMBER 2017 | www.nature.com/naturephysics 1027 ©2017 Mac millan Publishers Li mited, part of Spri nger Nature. All ri ghts reserved.