LIGO Document G1602064-v1

The Pre-History of Gravitational Wave Detection

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A talk at the 3rd Annual Gruber Cosmology Conference at Yale on 7 October 2016.
My talk will explain how we came to understand that gravitational waves were real physical phenomena, detectable in principle. The turning point of our understanding was the talk by Felix Pirani at the 1957 Chapel Hill Conference. Joe Weber, who listened to the talk, was immediately inspired to start designing his pioneering gravitational wave detectors. Rai Weiss, who read later the published paper on which the talk was based, understood how interferometers were both a) better embodiments of the thought-experiment that Pirani proposed, and b) likely much more sensitive than a Weber bar could be.
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