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  • Nobel Prize in Physics: Rainer Weiss (FULL PRESS CONFERENCE)
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[SIDE CONVERSATION] I heard your talk [INAUDIBLE]. And now, how about you? That's right. But for me-- [INAUDIBLE]. Welcome to MIT, everyone. And thank you to all who are here with us this morning or able to participate remotely on the phone bridge or via the live webcast. Thank you. We'll begin with a few introductory remarks from MIT'S president, Rafael Reif. The president will introduce Professor Rai Weiss, who will speak, after which we will take questions from the room and via our remote participants. We'll provide a few more additional instructions at that point. Thank you so much, all. I know you all want to hear from Rai. But you have to pay a few minutes of listening to me first. [LAUGHTER] Thank you, Kimberly. And great morning to everyone. Great morning, indeed. And great morning to everyone watching the livestream as well. I'm delighted to announce what you already know. Today, Rainer Weiss, Emeritus Professor of Physics at MIT received a 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics. Professor Weiss shares the award with two key collaborators, both from Caltech, Barry Barish, the Ronald and Maxine Linde Professor of Physics Emeritus, and Kip Thorne, the Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics Emeritus. Rai, Barry, and Kip received this honor for the decades of work on the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, affectionately known as LIGO. A little over two years ago, LIGO instruments produced the first physical evidence of the existence of gravitational waves. Albert Einstein predicted the existence of these ripples in space-time a century ago. But no instruments on Earth were sensitive enough to detect them until LIGO. The creativity and rigor of the LIGO experiment constitute a scientific triumph. We are profoundly inspired by the brilliant leadership and decades of ingenuity, optimism, and perseverance that brought it to life. Today's announcement reminds us on a grand schedule of value, importance, and thrill of basic scientific research and why it deserves society's collective support. As Rai Weiss will be the first to tell you, this bold achievement was only possible because of the work of thousands of grad students, post-docs, and faculty collaborators across the country and around the world, the kind of people who are committed to the painstaking work of science at all hours, over many years, not because they seek fame, but because they just have to know how the universe works. So we offer our warm congratulations and our admiration to the wonderful worldwide LIGO community. And of course, we are immensely proud of Rai, who is truly of MIT. He not only served on the MIT faculty for 37 years, he's also an MIT graduate twice over, both his bachelor's and his PhD. Through the LIGO project, Rai has educated and mentored hundreds of MIT grad students, and he has inspired many wonderful careers. At least one of his star students is now a member of our faculty, the associate head of our physics department and a LIGO pioneer in her own right, Nergis Mavalvala. The Nobel is a remarkable honor, but it's not the first that Rai has received for his exceptional contributions. Since the LIGO announcement in February 2016, Rai and his collaborators also received a special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, the 2016 Gruber prize in Cosmology, the Shaw Prize in astronomy, and the Kavil Prize in astrophysics, just to name a few. Rai is in good company here, because 31 members of the MIT community have previously been awarded the physics Nobel, including six past and current members of our faculty. And Rai, it seems that we have a few of your devoted fans here this morning. But some people are watching via webcast. So for their sake, for their sake, I want to ask a favor of everyone who is here. In a moment all together, on behalf of everyone at MIT, let's let the world know how much we love Rai, how much we love science, and how proud we are of the entire LIGO team. Let's make some noise. [APPLAUSE, CHEERING] Rai, that was definitely louder than a gravitational waves. [LAUGHTER] What a great testament, Rai, to all what you have done for so many individuals, for the MIT community, for science, and for humanity. Congratulations. The floor is yours. Please welcome Rai Weiss. [APPLAUSE, CHEERING] Before I start, I'd like to have all the people who are here from our LIGO lab stand up. Please stand up so they can see who you are. [APPLAUSE] That's good. Thank you. Since I've been up for a while, I'm going to have to read, because my head is a little bit [NON-ENGLISH].. In the morning, getting up at 5:00 in the morning, not my usual way. So I have a little thing prepared. I'm going to read it. It may be a little stultifying, but I'll try my best. First of all, let me say what the importance is. I mean, it's already been said, but I want to really say it in the definitive way that it is. And that is that we have made a direct detection, all of us, of gravitational waves. And these were predicted, as President Reif said, in 1916, maybe with a little mistake in the paper. We know all about that. Then he did it right in 1918. But that's all right. That's forgivable. And it was part of the new theory of gravity that he had developed in 1915. The measurement itself that was made, the very first measurement, which has then been followed by four more, and one of the most recent, which is actually much more interesting than some of the others because it includes another detector. And might as well say that right off. That was celebrated early last week. I mean, you were there, David. Yeah, last week. Just last week. And that was at the Virgo project, which is a sister project to this, which also started not terribly much later than the LIGO did. Actually made a detection with LIGO together, and in the process, was able to pinpoint the place where these black holes, this new set of black holes, a pair of black holes, again, was on the sky, which is something that LIGO could not do so well on its own. And that was a major step forward for both the science, which we'll get to in a minute, and also for the Virgo Project itself, and for us also, insomuch is that we weren't just fooling around. We had somebody else who saw it too. OK? That's important. That's part of science. And with this instrument that's been developed, both here and in Europe, and later on, in other countries, we've opened a new field of astronomy and astrophysics. And that's really, I think, the fundamental thing that's so new about this. The Einstein waves are interesting, and the fact that you can directly detect them is important. But the real payoff is going to be in the future. It's already happened, the payoff, in some regards. And more of it will happen on October 16th. I won't tell you what it is. But I can tell you that there is more there. And I think there's another whoopdeedo arranged for that. And I urge you to go to it, because it's actually very interesting. But I won't say any more than that. [LAUGHTER] And that, with the things that you already know, have opened up this new field of a way of looking at the universe. And the radiation is produced by accelerated masses. And it's so penetrating that nothing perturbs its traveled to the Earth at all. And that's one of the major ingredients that makes it a more interesting thing than just changing the wavelength in electromagnetic observation. That's always been important, has always led to new things to discover. But the fact that this radiation is so penetrating-- nothing stops it-- makes it so that you can look for things that you have never seen before. You can look at things you know a way that's new. That is really the big step forward. Now, challenges, why did it take so long to do this? I mean, people say, yeah, you poor guy and all your group. You've snookered them into hanging around for years and years, and nothing ever worked. Well, that's not true. What happened is it took a while to do the things that make this. And I think it was said well already. One is dealing with the strains of a gravitational wave, which is the measurement that you can make, the strain in the wave. And let me say what they are. So for those who haven't been inculcated yet in this, these are waves that carry information. They travel at the velocity of light. They are transference waves, just like electromagnetic waves. In other words, they do their action on matter transverse to the direction in which they're traveling. And what they do is they stretch space in one dimension, perpendicular to the direction in which they're traveling, and compress space in the other. Now, a little bit later, that reverses. And the thing that was compressed is stretched. And the thing that was expanded is contracted. And that's the characteristic pattern, this stretching, expanding, and then traveling wave that travel at the velocity of light. That's all very easy. And it's actually not hard to explain this to high school students. I do this a lot. Less to my colleagues in colleges, but I love to talk to high school students. But the part that's hard is what comes next. And that is how big that amplitude of the strain is. That's where the challenge was. And the thing is that-- Einstein, when he first wrote about this in his first 1916 paper, even though he had a mistake in the paper, saw right away that this was going to be a challenge. And he even said, this the new thing that he just invented, or had gotten out of his equations, will never play a role in science. That's what he said very explicitly. And the reason he did it, because he was a guy who actually put numbers to paper occasionally. He wasn't just a theorist. I'm sorry. [LAUGHTER] And he actually calculated what-- the dimensions of his equations were right. That wasn't the problem. So he right away said, look, this is so tiny, it's never going to play a role. And you have to think what happened between then and now. I mean, this is 100 years ago. And what happened is first of all, people learned about a lot more things than astronomy. They learned about compact binaries. Those are things like very solid little nuggets that are neutron stars. And they found out that they come in pairs. That we now know sometimes. And the other thing is we, although he didn't believe in it himself, he and his own theory saw that there were black holes. But that's something till the end of his life did not think was really ever going to be a real thing. And we had people here at MIT who didn't think it was a real thing either, very famous people, in fact. I'll tell you a story out of school a little bit. Phil Morrison didn't believe in it at all, who was one of our very most accomplished astrophysicists. But it was not something that he-- in fact, when they were first discovered by x-ray astronomers, he began to make up theories. And you should look at the papers on it, very ornate papers, complicated papers that Occam's razor would be ashamed of, in which he was able to show that he could get the interpretation of what the x-ray astronomers were seeing. And what they were seeing was stars that were going around each other-- one they could see and they loved, because they knew about it, and another which they couldn't see. And the assumption had to be in the end that it was a black hole. And in fact, the x-ray astronomers discovered black holes first because of that. But Phil would come up with wonderful theories about how they were being fooled by some new optical effect, or some new kind of interaction that they hadn't thought of themselves. Which was perfectly OK. I mean, it wasn't a cuckoo thing. It was a thing that you could imagine happening. But it didn't work out that way. It turns out the world does have black holes. And the thing that's sort of amazing is that we saw them first. Most people didn't think that was going to happen. So let me get to the hard part. The hard part was making those tiny measurements. And there are two factors of 10 to the 12. I'm going to be free with 10 to the powers, because I think many of you can deal with that. In other words, there were two factors of 10 to the 12 involved in making those measurements. One was in going from 10 to the minus 18 meters, which is what you need to do to get to measuring the strains over four kilometers that are necessary. Kip Thorne, that's one of the reasons he won the Nobel Prize is he was there. He made those calculations. He saw what the sources were like. And he saw that you weren't going to get into business until you got to sensitivities of the order of strains of 10 to the minus 21. And that required making measurements on a baseline of four kilometers of about 10 to minus 18 meters. There was no way around it. So you had to develop technology to do that. And now, there were these two factors of 10 to the 12. The first one was the wavelength of light. The wavelength of light is a 10 to the minus 6 meters. So you had a big fat factor of 10 to 12 to overcome. And that turns out to be the relatively easy part. In other words, yes, we were able eventually to, and by many, many years of work, and a lot of work done right in this room, we were able to get to the point where you could measure 10 to the minus 18 meters with light. That was the first challenge. But it wasn't by all means the hardest one, I don't think. The much harder one was the other one, the other factor of 10 to the 12. And that factor of 10 to the 12 has to do with-- even though you might have this wonderful technique for measuring the positions of the masses, you don't necessarily know those masses are just being moved by gravitational waves. There are a lot of other things that push them around. For example-- and that's where I get this 10 to the 12-- the Earth right under is right here is shaking by 10 to the minus 6 meters, a few 10 to the minus 6. You go measure. Maybe a little worse on this floor than in the basement. But it's on the order 10 to minus 6 meters. And now, you want to be measuring 10 to minus 18. Well, you got to get rid of that. So there's a real challenge. How do you make an isolation system to get rid of that? And then how do you make the isolation system in such a way that it doesn't make its own noise? And so they have a lot of things. And we're now at a very interesting point in this whole career that people are working on is it's much more than gravitational waves. I mean, one of the things that's so interesting for a physics department is this business of actually doing the technology development so that you can measure 10 to the minus 18 meters. And for example, now, we know that the quantum theory is going to be a very big limit in this. And in fact, members of our team, Nergis and Matt, are deeply involved in trying to see how to evade that, not evade it. You can't get around quantum mechanics. But you can tailor it so that you can use it for your benefit. And that's what's going on now. So that's just to look to the future. OK, so anyway, these two factors of 10 to the 12, that's why it took so long. And now, what else is in the new field besides black holes? Well, we've seen black holes, which is wonderful. We also expect to see the merger of neutron stars. And that was a thing that actually gave this field a certain credibility when it was discovered that there were pairs of neutron stars in our galaxy. And people stopped laughing at us when that was found out. They said, yeah. Now, the big question is, how often does that happen that two neutron stars smash into each more? Well, I won't say anymore. [LAUGHTER] And the thing is that from that, people will learn, if we ever do it right, much more than just from gravity. Gravity is interesting in its own right. But you will learn a lot about nuclear physics, a lot about the fact equations of state of nuclear-- how stiff is nuclear matter? You will also learn probably how the heavy elements are made. All of this is reserved for the future. The other thing is that we also expect to see continuous waves, waves that actually-- this will be very interesting. These are waves that come about not because of an impulse and something going brrt, and that's the end of it. No, things that are continually rotating, and they put out waves forever, well, almost ever. And those have their own interests. I mean, for example, we expect pulsars to do that, Pulsars that are squished by a magnetic field and distorted by that. And they don't necessarily spin around their magnetic moment. They will wobble. They wobble. And that wobbling makes gravitational waves. Or have a little mountain on them, a half a millimeter mountain. It's not much. That's all you need. And so consequently, they radiate. And they radiate a continuous wave. And that will be fascinating for two purposes. One, you'll learn about what's going on in a pulsar, that's one of the most important things. But also, you'll learn something about the kinematics of the waves. Because these are nice continuous waves, you'll learn about how they're polarized. You will learn exactly if they move at the velocity of light. You'll learn a lot of facts about the traveling waves themselves, the kinematics of it. And then, of course, because this is a brand new field-- I just gave you two examples-- we expect surprises. There have to be surprises. And that's been the situation. Every time you'll open up another wavelength band, an ENM, but here, we are opening up something really quite radically different. I've already talked about that so-- And then there is a thing, which I love [INAUDIBLE] and we eventually will get our hands on. And that is the possible radiation from Alan Guth's inflation. Well, Alan didn't have it in the beginning. Alan had it all so smooth, there was none of these gravitational waves. Is he in the room or not? I don't see him. Alan, are you here? OK. No, but then that turns out others, and then he eventually adopted it also, found out that the quantum fluctuations that are associated with this initial formation of the universe, the very moment when the universe came out of a vacuum, out of nothingness-- it sounds crazy, but that's the current theory-- that that also produced gravitational waves that are then associated with what was unfolding, the accelerations that were unfolding as the universe began to expand at this incredible fast speed during inflation. And that is being looked for by other techniques first. But it's going to be the subject of something. These detectors we have now will not do that. Maybe even the space detectors that are being thought about will not do that. It's a thing for the generation, maybe another next generation is my feeling. But it's not going to be forgotten. It's got to be done. Now, the meaning of the prize. Discovery has been the work, as I say, of a large number of people. Many of them will play crucial roles, such as Kip Thorne, who is one of the recipients of this Nobel Prize, and also-- and some people who are no longer alive. In fact, Ron Drever, who I think would have been another recipient of this prize, is dead. He died. And he contributed, in the concept of this, enormously important ideas. So that's important. And I view this, as I say, I view this receiving this thing as a symbol for all the other people who have worked on this. I'm a symbol for them. I mean, it's not on my shoulders, the whole thing. The other people are the directors of this project that have worked on this thing. Robbie Vogt, in the early days, Barry Barish, who played a central role-- we'll get to that in a second-- Jay Marx, who is known to many of the high energy physicists here, and David Reitze, who is the current director. These all played roles in getting this project going. And Barry, in particular, Barry Barish paid a particularly important role. His role was to get this thing built without the sturm und drang that had happened before. That's one thing. No sturm und drang in Barry. Getting things done was the way he operated. And then he also started the LIGO scientific collaboration, which is something which now, we're enormous beneficiaries of. The Caltech and the MIT groups can't do everything alone. And in fact, a very powerful piece has been added. And that's the scientific collaboration, which does a lot of the analysis. And that has gone through an evolution also. The first elected spokesperson was Peter Saulson, who started his work in gravity here. I mean, he was a Princeton grad. Then David Reitze, who is now the director, but he was also a spokesperson. And Gabriela Gonzales, and now David Shoemaker is the current spokesperson. And then there is a very important part to the thing, which was in Germany. Before, we talked about the Virgo project some. But the GEO project, which was a smaller instrument, from a group that had started very early in this game-- but I think German reunification made it so they couldn't build a big detector. I think that's my guess of what happened there. And so they have built a smaller one, but a wonderful testbed for wonderful new ideas. So the future? The future is that LIGO will improve, that Virgo will improve. We will have more detectors so we can do better pinpointing on the sky of where things are. In my estimate, there's probably a factor of 100 we can still do with not necessarily technology in hand at the moment, but not technology that violates the laws of physics. OK? [LAUGHTER] OK? And so that's the future. Then there's a future in LISA, which is the satellite version, a completely different set of wavelengths. LIGO looks at things that have periods of a tenth of a second to 10 minus 4 seconds. That's one class of phenomena that are associated with that. The other class of phenomena are much longer ones, for example, that black hole that sits in the middle of our galaxy, when it eats something, it doesn't radiate in a band that we can see. It'll be in longer, longer periods. Or that thing that discovered gravitational radiation by inference, namely, the binary pulsar. When it gets near the point where it's beginning to radiate, we will see this with much longer periods. So consequently, LISA will play a very important role in the band from periods of hours to minutes-- well, certainly, hours to tens of minutes. And then there's a whole project, which has been ongoing for a while, which is to look at gravitational waves at periods of hours. Excuse me, years. Excuse me, I said it wrong, years. And that's the thing where you look at pulsars and map the frequency of pulsars all over the galaxy and see how they change as gravitational waves come through the galaxy. I won't describe it. I'll leave that for questions. And the very last one is a one which caused a lot of stir. But the stir was maybe justified. But unfortunately, they did the stirring a little too early. And that was the BICEP project. That is a wonderful experiment. It's an experiment to look at attributes of the cosmic background radiation. That's the radiation that remains from the big explosion. But it's things that are in the density fluctuations in that, that are due to gravitational waves that happened during the epoch that Alan Guth was thinking about, the inflationary epoch. And that made a attempt at trying to make a statement about gravitational waves. Unfortunately, they were seeing dust in the galaxy. Many of us have been screwed by dust, I'll be honest with you. [LAUGHTER] And so they did too. But they have made an enormous step forward in the technology of that. And I think, if there's something there, that they will detect something. A final note about my own feelings on receiving this prize. I certainly feel humbled to be put in the same category as some of the giants of physics. That's sort of unbelievable in a way. I mean, these people I regard-- I've read about forever in my life. And to be put in a category that's even approaching them is sort of unreal, I have to say. And one of the things I dreamt about a while ago is that if Einstein was still alive, it would be absolutely wonderful to go to him and tell him about the discovery. And he would have been very pleased. I'm sure of that. But then we told him what the discovery was, that it was a black hole, he would be absolutely flabbergasted, because he didn't believe in them either. So that was it. And then the last thing I just want to say, which is sort of a political statement, but I feel very strongly about, and that is that this prize and others that are given to scientists is an affirmation by our society of gaining information about the world around us from reasoned understanding of evidence, a process that is currently in some jeopardy. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Wow, loud room. So now, we're going to take a few questions from the room, from the phone bridge, and then from online. We actually have our first question from online. It comes from Seth Borenstein at the Associated Press. And Rai, I think you'll like it. Since gravitational waves are heard, in some ways, it is the music of the universe. How would you describe the music that you hear? Is it classical, jazz, rock, et cetera? How beautiful or not is the music that we can hear? And how important is it that we can hear it? Wow. Well, that's an interesting statement. First of all, let's say why is it in the audio. OK? And there has been a mystique about that, that we're now listening to the universe. I mean, I've heard that over and over again in the press. And I think we were partly to blame for that ourselves. [LAUGHTER] We're not listening to the universe because of soundwaves. OK? It happens to be these phenomena that we are seeing. And the detector we made happens to be sensitive in that spectral region. But the phenomena we are seeing are things that are still very much not sound. They could be in the sources. But they are in the frequency band that is audible. I think that's a very important thing. There's no soundwaves running from that collapsing binary out there to the Earth. That there's no medium there to do that. And it happens to be that the oscillation frequencies, the orbital frequencies are perceptible by our ears if you put them into a loudspeaker after you've amplified them and made electrical signals out of them. Then you hear them. And that's very pretty. There's no doubt. But radio astronomers have been doing this for years. They've been listening to whistlers forever. You know? And anyway, what kind of music is it? Well, I'll tell you. I mean, I know a little bit about music. But the thing is, I tell you who was close to it, which is interesting, Couperin. I don't know if you-- it's not my favorite composer. But Couperin, a French Baroque composer, tried putting chirps into his music. And there are some suites that he wrote in which there are whoop, whoop, like that. [LAUGHTER] OK? [LAUGHS] I think the LIGO team is enjoying the chirping. Do we have any questions from the room? Bruce Gellerman. So you play piano. Which piece did you play or will you play to commemorate this award? I wish I could play. I just had an operation on my hand. But I do play the piano, but not very well, and not a pleasure to listen to. [LAUGHTER] It's for me that I play the piano, not for you. [LAUGHTER] And other questions in the room? Eric. Eric Moskowitz from the Globe. Yeah, I remember you. You came by. Yeah. I was wondering. After you're done celebrating this honor, what is the next challenge? I know you're an emeritus faculty member, but still very much in the [INAUDIBLE].. What's the next specific challenge in regards to LIGO that you yourself are either working on now or going to be working on? Well, you make it sound like I'm so important. It's not true anymore. Well, I may have been important a while ago. But now I work on little hobby things that might be useful to the project. The people who really make the difference are sitting right around you, by the way. So I make devices. I look at the noise. And I look very hard at what we could do-- and so does everybody in the room here. I'm not the only one that does that-- that would make the detector better. I mean, you ask, what was going on in those 40 years? OK? And most of what was going on those 40 years, you build something. It doesn't quite work the way you thought it would. The theory says it should work, and something's not right. And you try to figure out what's wrong. And that's what's going on. And that's still going on. And it will go on forever. And I hope to be part of that again. I mean, I'm worried about this Nobel Prize causing trouble in the sense that you can't get to work. It will happen. I'll try to moderate it. But that's my real pleasure. And my real pleasure is working with people at the sites. I enjoy that. I'm not the boss. She's the boss. No, no. Sky & Telescope. [INAUDIBLE] I can't hear you very well. Speak up. Sorry. After all these years of work, how did you feel when you finally proved that the gravitational waves were there? Oh, wow. OK. Well, let's be honest about it. Most of us in this room-- and you can ask others as well-- didn't believe it. OK? And the story is complicated. But it's also an experiment done in modern times. OK? And what happened was that-- it took us, I mean, in summary, but I want to stretch it out a little bit because the story is cute. Most of us eventually bought on, but it took a long time. And Matt Evans, for example, played a major role in making us believe it. And I'll get to why that was. What it is is that we used to inject signals of our own, fake signals into the detectors. And the morning this happened-- and many of us saw it on the web-- we thought right away this looked just too beautiful, the first the very first one. All the others looked-- well, not quite. Yeah, they all look about the same. I mean, they're different in slight details. But they all would have served to make us very skeptical, because they're big signals that we saw. And I'll tell you why. We expected to see neutron stars first, not black holes. And so what happened is that we did this to test the instrument, to test the people and the system. That's why we put fake signals in. So that was the obvious thing. All of us said, oh, yeah, that's just a blind injection. Forget about it. That was very quickly dispelled. That's easy. You go around, talk to everybody. And then the next problem, which was a stinker, was how do we know we were not invaded by the Russians, for example, like they invaded the elections? OK? [LAUGHTER] And the thing is that this business of people taking pleasure in just making a nuisance of themselves, OK? The Russians are a little more serious. But this was just being a nuisance. OK? And the thing is, that took a long time. And Matt really made a science out of trying to show the whole collaboration, because he understood the instruments so well, that all the signals actually followed exactly as they should have from the very beginning, from the mass, out to the amplifiers, and after the amplifiers, the filters, and after that, the digitizers, and then finally into the recording system. It all looked kosher. And that was an enormous step forward and getting us all to believe. And it's then-- not that I didn't want to believe. But that's when it really hit. And that took a while. OK? And how do you feel? Well, don't make it-- there's an interesting thing. I've said this to others. I said, yeah, monkey was off my back. I said that many years ago, too many years ago. But it was true maybe. But what really is the truth is that that wasn't what we were thinking about all the time. Look, we worked on this thing. And you think in my lab, people said oh, my god, we haven't detected gravitational waves today? That wasn't the thing that drove people. What drove people was, hey, the amplifier, that one works pretty good. Now, let's see if you can make a better one. Or you know, the suspension you made, hey, that's a neat suspension you got there. That's what got you going, kept you going. And the pleasure of doing that with people you enjoyed is the thing that kept you going. So the end result is wonderful. I'm not denying that. But that wasn't the thing that made it go. OK? Professor, over here. I can't see you. Over here. Oh, there, OK. Hi. Just wondering if you could say where you were when you found out about this award, what you felt, and who you told first. Say again. I could not get all you said. Where were you when you found out about this award? Oh, I was in bed. [LAUGHTER] And my wife, who doesn't sleep well, answered the phone. Did they tell her first? And we were all quite nude. I mean-- [LAUGHTER] You asked. I'm telling you. [LAUGHTER] Yeah, and now I can see you better. One of the best spectrometers ever. [LAUGHTER] So can we take a question from the phone right now? There are some. OK, can we tap the mic on for Lisa? Thanks. Hi. Lisa Grossman from Science News. Hi. There's been-- I have a follow-up to this if you can't answer it. But there's been some giggling in this room about what's going to happen on October 16th. So what can you tell us about neutron stars. I'm not going to tell you any more than I did. And I'll tell you why. It's not fair to the people who have prepared it all. I was giving you a teaser, like a circus, a guy who stands in front of a circus show. OK? My real question is, is it significant, and if so, why, that we saw black holes first when you expected to see neutron stars? Yeah, that's an interesting question. It turns out that during the course of this long episode of 40 years, I gave a few talks around. And I gave a talk at Cornell back about 1999 or 2000. And Hans Bethe, who was still alive-- if I have the date wrong, it was near his death. I don't know what year he died. I don't remember. But it was just before he died. And I gave a talk. And I gave the usual spiel about, oh, well, here's how Hulse-Taylor-- that's this thing that is the two neutron stars that have been measured. And and I gave the usual spiel that we're going to see that, and we have made estimates for how often we should see such a thing. And there was tremendous debate about that. And Hans at the end of the talk very gently raised his hand. And he said, you're worrying about the wrong source. He and one of his colleagues at CUNY-New York had been studying black holes. And he said, point blank, you're going to see black holes first. And Kip did say that too, by the way, Kip Thorne also. But our problem was the following. I mean, we couldn't go in front of a committee of reputable people, maybe science fiction people, but not reputable people, and say, look, we we're going to see black holes, because we didn't have a mechanism that we could use. And the problem was we didn't know that they existed in pairs. That was the fundamental-- we knew that neutron stars existed in pairs. And so we could see, yeah, there were several examples of that in our own galaxy. And when they get tired, they will radiate. They clash into each other. And they make wonderful gravitational waves. And we could calculate-- we tried to calculate how often we'd see that. We couldn't really say how many pairs of black holes they were because people didn't see them. And so consequently, that's why I said very early on, one of the discoveries of the thing that happened in September of 2015 is that we've now found out that they do live together. And it has caused a wonderful new problem in astrophysics as far as I'm concerned. Many people are now trying to figure out where in the hell they come from. And that has opened up a whole new field in terms of, do they come from a star that has collapsed and broke up into two pieces? Or do they come from globular clusters, places in our galaxy where the stars are all very tight together, and they smash into each other? That's another possibility. Or maybe they come from the very earliest stars that were ever made, you know, the hydrogen stars, the very first stars that turned out to be giants. They turned out to be thousands of solar masses big. Or possibly-- and here, Peter will laugh. People began to think that they might been something created in the Big Bang, primordial ones, not such big ones, now we know. But that was the very first paper. Oh, it was, yeah, maybe you'll discover where the dark matter is. That was sort of a hoot, I thought. [LAUGHTER] Anyway, I told as best as I can. Look behind you. Sorry. Congratulations on the Nobel Prize. My name is Hiromoto from Nipon Television, a Japanese broadcaster. I would like to ask something regarding Japan. As you know, a new gravitational laboratory, Kagura, is going to be constructed next year. Could you tell me what you expect for this new facility? Thank you. If I understand your question, you want me to-- I didn't say much about that, and I should have-- you're absolutely right-- about what is the near-term evolution. I only talked about the longer term evolution. There are several projects, which are ground-based projects, that are going to try to use the same wavelength band or frequency band as LIGO and Virgo. And one of them is Kagura, which is, I think, what we're talking about. Right? Yeah. Yeah. And Kagura is an experiment which will try some new ideas. And what they are is ideas tat we haven't done yet. What the idea is, to become part of a network. And remember, the network is useful for localization of the objects on the sky. But also, they're going to try some ideas out, which are to improve the sensitivity. And the two ideas, the two basic fundamental things that they're going to try is to build a system which uses cryogenics-- that means cold temperatures, low temperatures, the things you get with liquid helium-- to try to get the noise down, the thermal goes down, which as we evolve now, we find out the thermal noise dominates. [INAUDIBLE] we a problem, which is limiting us. But there are a lot of people working on it with different ideas. But one of the problems, I might as well say to you, is the fact that the surface of the mirror is driven by soundwaves, which are damped pretty well. And that makes noise. Anything that damps a thermal motion is a way that thermal excitations get into the system. And so it turns out that the mirror coatings, the coatings on the mirrors, are dominating the noise budget. And a person who's done a lot of work on it, again, is Matt, with a beautiful experiment to show that here. And so have others, but Matt's experiment is particularly good. And so what happens is they are going to try cryogenics. And the other thing they've done at great expense is to put it inside of a mountain. And they hope thereby to get away from the noise which we don't really know how to get rid of. Maybe we'll get rid of it by putting it in a place where there is a lot of matter between you and the sky, for example. Let me tell you what it is. It's not the same thing as a seismic noise. In other words, we can get rid of seismic noise by-- the motions of the Earth you can get rid of by making something which attaches you to the fixed stars. That's fundamentally what it does. A suspension does that. By making a thing which is loosely supported from the Earth, you would then effectively have a thing which then tries to stay fixed with regard to the fixed stars. And you can do that very successfully. You can do that better and better. And a lot of the work done here at MIT has been, in fact, to do that better and better and in applications that are useful to others, by the way. The thing you can't get rid of is a different problem. And the problem is that here's this test mass. Call this microphone a test mass. And here is a soundwave in the ground. And the soundwave is doing this. It's compressing the ground as it goes by this thing. And what that does, where it's compressed a lot, the gravity from that, it's a denser region the place where it expanded. That causes that mirror, which is that microphone, to be pulled over to it. In other words, what's called gravity radiance, or just Newtonian forces. And what you hope-- By the way, you can make numbers and calculations for that. And you can see, it's a strong limit at low frequencies. We're not going to do very well with gravitational wave detectors on the ground, the low frequencies of about 5 hertz. I don't know. Maybe I'm a little too ambitious. But 5 hertz is what I would guess. That's why people want to do it in space. Now, what Kagura is trying to do is they want to see, can one get around this by building in a mountain, where you have a different kind of surround? Many of the Raileigh waves-- I'm getting technical. I don't mean to-- are attenuated by that mountain. So some of the density fluctuations are reduced by being underground. And the other thing, you are far away from the atmosphere, which has the same problem. It has density fluctuations, which pull on the mirror. So Kagura has these two things. I hope their schedule isn't going to drive them crazy. OK? I don't know how much you know about that. But they're very, very ambitious. And we all wish them luck that they don't kill each other in the process of putting this together. Because I mean, they're trying to maintain an insane schedule. I'll say that right now. But the thing is they are clearly a very important new development. The other one is to take-- we had a second detector at Hanford. When we started LIGO, we had two detectors in the same envelope at the Hanford facility, one half the length of the other. And that turned out not to be the cleverest idea. And it turns out, we had a spare detector. And we were trying to find a place to put that detector where it's useful for the field. And it turns out-- we tried to do it in Perth, Australia. Take that detector, have them-- we can't get more money from the NSF to put that there. OK? But we can give them a detector if the country where this is going to happen is willing to pay for the infrastructure. And so Australia couldn't come up with the money. But the Indians could. And so there's going to be a detector in India. And that's going to be another part of this network. Let me say something which I didn't say and I really should have said much more carefully. The thing that's a marvel here is not just the technology. I want to say something which I should have said very openly, and I failed to do it because I didn't read my notes properly. And that is the fact that with those 40 years that we did all this development, we were comfortably supported and sustaining support from the American taxpayer through Congress by the National Science Foundation. And that is unheard of that over 40 years, we just unquestioningly, almost the whole project kept going. It's a triumph, a triumph for the agency, a triumph for a person who was in that agency named Richard Isaacson. But it's a triumph to see that something as speculative as this thing that you've been hearing about was carried through from first harebrained idea to this execution. And it was done all in that agency. I should have said that right away. I'm sorry I didn't. Rai, we're going to do a couple more. OK. I'm all right. Don't worry. You're OK? Yeah, yeah. Thank you. Please let me know. Do you know any Japanese physicists that are contributing? Oh, oh, yes, Seiji Kawamura, who you probably know. Seiji Kawamura, he worked on much of the early parts of LIGO. Then there are others. There's Hiro Yamamoto. I don't know them all. Maybe you can say better. There's [INAUDIBLE] now. OK, get up. Say it. Yeah, no. [LAUGHTER] A Nobel Prize winner, by the way. Oh, that's right. He won for the neutrino. Yeah, OK. So we do have one from the phone bridge now. We'll take it. Our next question comes from Sarah Lewis with [INAUDIBLE].. Hi, So to add onto a question from before, how did you feel when you first got the call? And were surprised? Wait. Can you say that again slowly? Sure. And get away from the microphone a little. How did you feel when you first got the call? And were you surprised? Oh, this morning. Yeah, well, I already said a little bit about that, and I shouldn't have said not as much as I did. [LAUGHTER] I understand your situation, but wanted to know your thoughts. It was quite a shock because we weren't quite expecting it. I mean, not that we weren't told it could happen. But my wife and I had actually thought that it had only about a 20% chance, something like that. But now, it is a fact, and it's wonderful. And it's wonderful for not me, but for everybody who has worked on this. Thank you. You have the mic. Yeah. OK. Hi, Rai. Congratulations. Jennifer Chu from MIT News. I just was wondering if you had any advice for students who might be working on a seemingly harebrained idea, might be facing some skepticism, but are trying to see or hear something that no one has ever seen or heard before? What can you advise? I know what you're asking? You're saying, how does somebody who's young with an interesting idea get started? That's the question you're asking, isn't it? And there are so many different ways that gets done. I'll give it to you in my case. OK? Because there's no universal answer to that. And you'll laugh at what I'm about to tell you, because it worked. But it doesn't sound like it should have. I flunked out of MIT. And it turned out, that was actually a very good thing to do. Because I ran into a guy whose name was Jerrold Zacharias by accident. I was walking around the old Building 20, which is that thing on Albany Street, that plywood palace. But you're too young to know about that. But there was an old building at MIT, which was part of the Second World War. It was full of wonderful people and experiments. And when I flunked out, I went through that building, and I sad, hey, and I walked around. Do you need somebody who knows electronics? And so I found a place that needed somebody who had electronics experience. It happened to be Jerrold Zacharias's laboratory. So I worked as a technician for three years, almost. Yeah, pretty much, 2 1/2 years. And I learned a lot of things I should have known before. I learned how to solder. I learned how to machine. I learned how to deal with people. [LAUGHTER] And what came of it is that then when he got interested in doing an experiment, which was very tentative. It was a tricky experiment, an experiment that he wasn't sure was going to work. He figured I was not a graduate student. So why don't you work with me on this possibly harebrained experiment. That's what he did. OK? And what he was trying to do-- this was way long ago-- he was trying to do the Einstein redshift, the fact that clocks move at a slower-- they are slower in a strong gravitational field than when you're above the gravitational field. And he wanted to use a clock that he had developed, the atomic clock, in a interesting physics experiment. And he asked me to join him. And it was a wonderful experience. And now, what came of that? What came of it, I found there was a person who thought I was OK. I wasn't a complete dope. I wasn't quite as dumb as I looked. And that made a lot of difference to me. I got some confidence out of that. That story is the best one I can tell you because it's my own story. OK? So I don't know how. You deal with others. You try to work with them. You try to convince people around you that your idea is a good one, or you will demonstrate that you're not completely crazy and stuff like that. I can't give you a formula. But I gave you my experience. I think that works for people. Yeah. [INAUDIBLE] We'll close on this question, and then we'll do a few more after the [INAUDIBLE].. Rai, I apologize for belaboring the 5:00 AM scene. But it sounds like kind of a charming moment. If you could, tell us a little bit about maybe when you actually had the phone in hand, what did you hear as they were telling you that you'd won? And what came out of your mouth in response perhaps? Oh, god. [LAUGHTER] You know, if I could remember what I said at 5:15 this morning, I'd be a lot better than I am. All I know is I figured it wasn't a phony. [LAUGHTER] And I'll tell you why. The guy had this very subtle Swedish English accent. And I said, that guy probably is all right, unless they're really pulling a-- [LAUGHS] --unless they're pulling a spoof on me. It could have been anybody in the group calling me up. And-- [LAUGHTER] I can't give you a better-- And I think we're going to wrap it up. OK, thank you. Thank you so much, Professor Weiss. Do you want to have a seat? Or do you want to stay there? [APPLAUSE, CHEERING] Thank you to all the folks on the webcast and on the audio bridge. Thank you very much. [JAZZ MUSIC PLAYING]



The MIT Press traces its origins back to 1926 when MIT published under its own name a lecture series entitled Problems of Atomic Dynamics given by the visiting German physicist and later Nobel Prize winner, Max Born. Six years later, MIT's publishing operations were first formally instituted by the creation of an imprint called Technology Press in 1932. This imprint was founded by James R. Killian, Jr., at the time editor of MIT's alumni magazine and later to become MIT president. Technology Press published eight titles independently, then in 1937 entered into an arrangement with John Wiley & Sons in which Wiley took over marketing and editorial responsibilities. In 1962 the association with Wiley came to an end after a further 125 titles had been published. The press acquired its modern name after this separation, and has since functioned as an independent publishing house.[2]

A European marketing office was opened in 1969, and a Journals division was added in 1972. In the late 1970s, responding to changing economic conditions, the publisher narrowed the focus of their catalog to a few key areas, initially architecture, computer science and artificial intelligence, economics, and cognitive science. Other areas, such as technology and design, have been added since. A recent addition is environmental science.[2]

In January 2010 the MIT Press published its 9000th title,[2] and published about 200 books and 30 journals. In 2012 the Press celebrated its 50th anniversary, including publishing a commemorative booklet on paper and online.[3]

The press co-founded the distributor TriLiteral LLC with Yale University Press and Harvard University Press. TriLiteral was acquired by LSC Communications in 2018.[4]


MIT Press primarily publishes academic titles in the fields of Art and Architecture; Visual and Cultural Studies; Cognitive Science; Philosophy; Linguistics; Computer Science; Economics; Finance and Business; Environmental Science; Political Science; Life Sciences; Neuroscience; New Media; and Science, Technology, and Society.[5]

The MIT Press is a distributor for such publishers as Zone Books[6] and Semiotext(e). In 2000, the MIT Press created CogNet, an online resource for the study of the brain and the cognitive sciences.[7] The MIT Press co-owns the distributor TriLiteral LLC with Harvard University Press and Yale University Press.[8]

In 1981 the MIT Press published its first book under the Bradford Books imprint, Brainstorms: Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology by Daniel C. Dennett.

Retail outlet

The MIT Press also operates the MIT Press Bookstore[9] showcasing both its front and backlist titles, along with a large selection of complementary works from other academic and trade publishers. The retail storefront was formerly located next to a subway entrance to Kendall/MIT station in the heart of Kendall Square, but has been temporarily moved to 301 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a short distance north of the MIT Museum near Central Square. Once extensive construction around its former location is completed, the Bookstore is planned to be returned to a site adjacent to the subway entrance.

The Bookstore offers customized selections from the MIT Press at many conferences and symposia in the Boston area, and sponsors occasional lectures and book signings at MIT.[citation needed]

The Bookstore is also known for its periodic "Warehouse Sales" offering deep discounts on surplus, damaged, and returned books and journals from its own catalog, as well as remaindered books from other publishers.

The Press uses a colophon or logo designed by its longtime design director, Muriel Cooper, in 1962.[10] The design is based on a highly-abstracted version of the lower-case letters "mitp", with the ascender of the "t" at the fifth stripe and the descender of the "p" at the sixth stripe the only differentiation.[11] It later served as an important reference point for the 2015 redesign of the MIT Media Lab logo by Pentagram.[10]

List of journals published by the MIT Press

The Arts and Humanities


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Science and Technology


  1. ^ "How to Order". 
  2. ^ a b c "History | The MIT Press". Retrieved 2012-11-17. 
  3. ^ "50 Years of Influential Books and Journal Articles | The MIT Press". 
  4. ^ "LSC Buys TriLiteral; Turner Purchases Gürze Books". Retrieved 2018-07-08. 
  5. ^ "MIT Press Catalogs". 
  6. ^ "Zone Books". Zone Books. Retrieved 2018-07-21. 
  7. ^ "CogNet FAQ". Archived from the original on 2012-05-21. 
  8. ^ "TriLiteral LLC • Book Distribution and Fulfillment Services". TriLiteral. 
  9. ^ "The MIT Press Bookstore". 
  10. ^ a b Stinson, Liz. "MIT Media Lab Gets a Transforming Logo, Courtesy of Pentagram". 
  11. ^ |AIGA profile of Muriel Cooper
  12. ^ "MIT Press Journals". MIT Press Journals. Retrieved 2018-07-21. 
  13. ^ "MIT Press Journals". MIT Press Journals. Retrieved 2018-07-21. 
  14. ^ "MIT Press Journals". MIT Press Journals. Retrieved 2018-07-21. 

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