FacebookTwitterYoutubeInstagramGoogle Plus

Salon: LIGO — Can it Save Big Science?

Thursday, June 2, 2016
10:30 am - 12:00 pm

The $1 billion taxpayer-funded LIGO project shook the science world this year with its observation of a gravitational wave, a ripple in space that was propelled by the violent merging of two huge black holes 1.3 billion years ago. The discovery ushers in a new era in astronomy that may fundamentally change our understanding of the universe. As such, LIGO is a triumph of Big Science, the commitment of tax dollars to expensive and often long-term research whose potential benefits to science and society cannot be guaranteed. Yet LIGO’s achievement comes at a time when the funding of science research is under siege. Three of LIGO’s pioneering physicists talk about the LIGO discovery, and the imperiled future of Big Science.

The Kavli Prize recognizes scientists for their seminal advances in astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience. The series, “The Big, the Small, and the Complex,” is sponsored by The Kavli Foundation and The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.


Walter IsaacsonAuthor, CEO of the Aspen Institute

Walter Isaacson is president and CEO of the Aspen Institute. He has been chairman and CEO of CNN and editor of TIME magazine. Isaacson’s most recent book is The Innovators; he authored Steve Jobs and several other best-selling biographies.

Read More


Barry BarishPhysicist

Barry Barish is an experimental physicist and a Linde Professor of Physics, emeritus at Caltech. He became the Principal Investigator of LIGO in 1994 and was LIGO Director from 1997-2005. Barish led the effort through the approval of funding by the NSF National Science Board in 1994, and the construction and commissioning of the LIGO interferometers in Livingston, LA and Hanford, WA in 1997.

Read More
Rush D. HoltCEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Rush D. Holt, is the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and executive publisher of the Science family of journals. Before coming to AAAS, Holt served for 16 years as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Read More
Kip S. ThorneTheoretical Physicist

Kip Thorne is the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus, at Caltech. He was the co-founder (with Rai Weiss and Ron Drever) of the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) Project and he chaired the steering committee that led LIGO in its earliest years.

Read More
Rai WeissPhysicist

Rai Weiss is known for his pioneering measurements of the spectrum of the cosmic microwave background radiation and his seminal leadership in the conception, design and operation of the laser interferometer gravitational wave detector; remarkable scientific achievements recognized by his roles as a co-founder and an intellectual leader of both the COBE Project and LIGO.

Read More