Thursday, February 18, 2016
UCI astronomer and physicist Virginia Trimble was a special guest at the National Science Foundation’s major announcement Feb. 12 of the long-sought detection of gravitational waves, a key part of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
Trimble was invited by agency director France Cordova to serve as an independent expert on the panel, reflecting their long friendship and academic history. Trimble said she also wanted to be there because her late husband, Joseph Weber, “was the unique pioneer in building operating detectors for gravitational waves from about 1955 until his death.”
Weber spent half of every year at UCI from 1973 until his death in 2000. Trimble said “he had been sure from about 1955 that [the waves]must be emitted by high-powered astronomical events and that they would eventually be seen.
I think now he would say that the detection might have come sooner if varying technologies had been developed in parallel with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory that was instrumental in the groundbreaking finding, and that advanced alien civilizations might well communicate using neutrinos and/or gravitational waves.”
Trimble, a longtime UCI faculty member, shared her insights on the discovery and personal reflections from her long academic career with journalists from leading scientific publications at the Washington, D.C., announcement.