Thorne in August 2007
Kip Stephen Thorne
June 1, 1940
Logan, Utah, U.S.
|Education|| California Institute of Technology (B.S.)|
Princeton University (M.S., Ph.D.)
|Known for|| Thorne-Żytkow object |
Linda Jean Peterson
(m. 1960;div. 1977)
Carolee Joyce Winstein
|Awards|| Lilienfeld Prize (1996)|
Albert Einstein Medal (2009)
Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (2016)
Gruber Prize in Cosmology (2016)
Shaw Prize (2016)
Kavli Prize (2016)
Harvey Prize (2016)
Princess of Asturias Award (2017)
Nobel Prize in Physics (2017)
Lewis Thomas Prize (2018)
|Fields|| Astrophysics |
|Institutions||California Institute of Technology|
|Thesis||Geometrodynamics of cylindrical systems (1965)|
|Doctoral advisor||John Archibald Wheeler|
|Doctoral students|| William L. Burke |
Carlton M. Caves
Lee Samuel Finn
Sándor J. Kovács
David L. Lee
Don N. Page
William H. Press
Richard H. Price
Bernard F. Schutz
Clifford Martin Will
Kip Stephen Thorne (born June 1, 1940) is an American theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate, known for his contributions in gravitational physics and astrophysics. A longtime friend and colleague of Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan, he was the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) until 2009 and is one of the world's leading experts on the astrophysical implications of Einstein's general theory of relativity. He continues to do scientific research and scientific consulting, most notably for the Christopher Nolan film Interstellar .
In 2017, Thorne was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics along with Rainer Weiss and Barry C. Barish "for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves".
Thorne was born in Logan, Utah on June 1, 1940. His father was a chemist, his mother Alison (née Comish) Thorne, was an economist and the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in the discipline from Iowa State College.Raised in an academic environment, two of his four siblings also became professors. Thorne's parents were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and raised Thorne in the LDS faith, though he now describes himself as atheist. Regarding his views on science and religion, Thorne has stated: "There are large numbers of my finest colleagues who are quite devout and believe in God [...] There is no fundamental incompatibility between science and religion. I happen to not believe in God."
Thorne rapidly excelled at academics early in life, winning recognition in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search as a senior at Logan High School and becoming one of the youngest full professors in the history of the California Institute of Technology at age 30. Jr. Professor in 1981, and the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics in 1991. He was an adjunct professor at the University of Utah from 1971 to 1998 and Andrew D. White Professor at Large at Cornell University from 1986 to 1992. In June 2009, he resigned his Feynman Professorship (he is now the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus) to pursue a career of writing and movie making.[ citation needed ] His first film project was Interstellar , on which he worked with Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan.He received his B.S. degree from Caltech in 1962, and Ph.D. degree from Princeton University in 1965. He wrote his doctoral thesis, Geometrodynamics of Cylindrical Systems, under the supervision of John Wheeler. Thorne returned to Caltech as an associate professor in 1967 and became a professor of theoretical physics in 1970, the William R. Kenan,
Throughout the years, Thorne has served as a mentor and thesis advisor for many leading theorists who now work on observational, experimental, or astrophysical aspects of general relativity. Approximately 50 physicists have received Ph.D.s at Caltech under Thorne's personal mentorship.
Thorne is known for his ability to convey the excitement and significance of discoveries in gravitation and astrophysics to both professional and lay audiences. In 1999, Thorne made some speculations on what the 21st century will find as the answers to the following questions:
His presentations on subjects such as black holes, gravitational radiation, relativity, time travel, and wormholes have been included in PBS shows in the U.S. and on the BBC in the United Kingdom.
Thorne and Linda Jean Peterson married in 1960. Their children are Kares Anne and Bret Carter, an architect. Thorne and Peterson divorced in 1977. Thorne and his second wife, Carolee Joyce Winstein, a professor of biokinesiology and physical therapy at USC, married in 1984.
Thorne's research has principally focused on relativistic astrophysics and gravitation physics, with emphasis on relativistic stars, black holes and especially gravitational waves.He is perhaps best known to the public for his controversial theory that wormholes can conceivably be used for time travel. However, Thorne's scientific contributions, which center on the general nature of space, time, and gravity, span the full range of topics in general relativity.
Thorne's work has dealt with the prediction of gravitational wave strengths and their temporal signatures as observed on Earth. These "signatures" are of great relevance to LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory), a multi-institution gravitational wave experiment for which Thorne has been a leading proponent – in 1984, he cofounded the LIGO Project (the largest project ever funded by the NSF) to discern and measure any fluctuations between two or more 'static' points; such fluctuations would be evidence of gravitational waves, as calculations describe. A significant aspect of his research is developing the mathematics necessary to analyze these objects. Thorne also carries out engineering design analyses for features of the LIGO that cannot be developed on the basis of experiment and he gives advice on data analysis algorithms by which the waves will be sought. He has provided theoretical support for LIGO, including identifying gravitational wave sources that LIGO should target, designing the baffles to control scattered light in the LIGO beam tubes, and – in collaboration with Vladimir Braginsky's (Moscow, Russia) research group – inventing quantum nondemolition designs for advanced gravity-wave detectors and ways to reduce the most serious kind of noise in advanced detectors: thermoelastic noise. With Carlton M. Caves, Thorne invented the back-action-evasion approach to quantum nondemolition measurements of the harmonic oscillators – a technique applicable both in gravitational wave detection and quantum optics.
On February 11, 2016, a team of four physicistsrepresenting the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, announced that in September 2015, LIGO recorded the signature of two black holes colliding 1.3 billion light-years away. This recorded detection was the first direct observation of the fleeting chirp of a gravitational wave and confirmed an important prediction of Einstein's general theory of relativity.
While he was studying for his Ph.D. in Princeton University, his mentor John Wheeler gave him an assignment problem for him to think over: find out whether or not a cylindrical bundle of repulsive magnetic field lines will implode under its own attractive gravitational force. After several months wrestling with the problem, he proved that it was impossible for cylindrical magnetic field lines to implode. 262–265:
Why is it that a cylindrical bundle of magnetic field lines will not implode, while spherical stars will implode under their own gravitational force? Thorne tried to explore the theoretical ridge between the two phenomena. He found out eventually that the gravitational force can overcome all interior pressure only when an object has been compressed in all directions. To express this realization, Thorne proposed his hoop conjecture, which describes an imploding star turning into a black hole when the critical circumference of the designed hoop can be placed around it and set into rotation. That is, any object of mass M around which a hoop of circumference can be spun must be a black hole. :266–267 :189–190
As a tool to be used in both enterprises, astrophysics and theoretical physics, Thorne and his students have developed an unusual approach, called the "membrane paradigm", to the theory of black holes and used it to clarify the "Blandford-Znajek" mechanism by which black holes may power some quasars and active galactic nuclei. 405–411:
Thorne has investigated the quantum statistical mechanical origin of the entropy of a black hole. With his postdoc Wojciech Zurek, he showed that the entropy of a black hole is the logarithm of the number of ways that the hole could have been made. 445–446:
With Igor Novikov and Don Page, he developed the general relativistic theory of thin accretion disks around black holes, and using this theory he deduced that with a doubling of its mass by such accretion a black hole will be spun up to 0.998 of the maximum spin allowed by general relativity, but not any farther. This is probably the maximum black-hole spin allowed in nature.
Thorne and his co-workers at Caltech conducted scientific research on whether the laws of physics permit space and time to be multiply connected (can there exist classical, traversable wormholes and "time machines"?).With Sung-Won Kim, Thorne identified a universal physical mechanism (the explosive growth of vacuum polarization of quantum fields), that may always prevent spacetime from developing closed timelike curves (i.e., prevent backward time travel).
With Mike Morris and Ulvi Yurtsever, he showed that traversable wormholes can exist in the structure of spacetime only if they are threaded by quantum fields in quantum states that violate the averaged null energy condition (i.e. have negative renormalized energy spread over a sufficiently large region). [ citation needed ]This has triggered research to explore the ability of quantum fields to possess such extended negative energy. Recent calculations by Thorne indicate that simple masses passing through traversable wormholes could never engender paradoxes – there are no initial conditions that lead to paradox once time travel is introduced. If his results can be generalized, they would suggest that none of the supposed paradoxes formulated in time travel stories can actually be formulated at a precise physical level: that is, that any situation in a time travel story turns out to permit many consistent solutions.
With Anna Żytkow, Thorne predicted the existence of red supergiant stars with neutron-star cores (Thorne–Żytkow objects).He laid the foundations for the theory of pulsations of relativistic stars and the gravitational radiation they emit. With James Hartle, Thorne derived from general relativity the laws of motion and precession of black holes and other relativistic bodies, including the influence of the coupling of their multipole moments to the spacetime curvature of nearby objects, as well as writing down the Hartle-Thorne metric, an approximate solution which describes the exterior of a slowly and rigidly rotating, stationary and axially symmetric body.
Thorne has also theoretically predicted the existence of universally antigravitating "exotic matter" – the element needed to accelerate the expansion rate of the universe, keep traversable wormhole "Star Gates" open and keep timelike geodesic free float "warp drives" working. With Clifford Will As of 2005 [update] , Thorne was interested in the origin of classical space and time from the quantum foam of quantum gravity theory.[ citation needed ]and others of his students, he laid the foundations for the theoretical interpretation of experimental tests of relativistic theories of gravity – foundations on which Will and others then built.
Thorne has written and edited books on topics in gravitational theory and high-energy astrophysics. In 1973, he co-authored the textbook Gravitation with Charles Misner and John Wheeler; [ when? ] In 2014, Thorne published The Science of Interstellar in which he explains the science behind Christopher Nolan's film Interstellar; Nolan wrote the foreword to the book. In September 2017, Thorne and Roger D. Blandford published Modern Classical Physics: Optics, Fluids, Plasmas, Elasticity, Relativity, and Statistical Physics, a graduate-level textbook covering the six major areas of physics listed in the title.that according to John C. Baez and Chris Hillman, is one of the great scientific books of all time and has inspired two generations of students. In 1994, he published Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy , a book for non-scientists for which he received numerous awards. This book has been published in six languages, and editions in Chinese, Italian, Czech, and Polish are in press.
Thorne's articles has appeared in publications such as:
Thorne has published more than 150 articles in scholarly journals.[ citation needed ]
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Thorne has been elected to:
He has been recognized by numerous awards including:
He has been a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Danforth Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, and Fulbright Fellow. He has also received the honorary degree of doctor of humane letters from Claremont Graduate University and an honorary doctorate from the Physics Department of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
He was elected to hold the Lorentz chair for the year 2009 Leiden University, the Netherlands.
Thorne has served on:
Kip Thorne was selected by Time magazine in an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the American world in 2016.
General relativity (GR), also known as the general theory of relativity (GTR), is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1915 and the current description of gravitation in modern physics. General relativity generalizes special relativity and refines Newton's law of universal gravitation, providing a unified description of gravity as a geometric property of space and time, or spacetime. In particular, the curvature of spacetime is directly related to the energy and momentum of whatever matter and radiation are present. The relation is specified by the Einstein field equations, a system of partial differential equations.
A wormhole is a speculative structure linking disparate points in spacetime, and is based on a special solution of the Einstein field equations. A wormhole can be visualized as a tunnel with two ends at separate points in spacetime.
Gravity, or gravitation, is a natural phenomenon by which all things with mass or energy—including planets, stars, galaxies, and even light—are brought toward one another. On Earth, gravity gives weight to physical objects, and the Moon's gravity causes the ocean tides. The gravitational attraction of the original gaseous matter present in the Universe caused it to begin coalescing and forming stars and caused the stars to group together into galaxies, so gravity is responsible for many of the large-scale structures in the Universe. Gravity has an infinite range, although its effects become increasingly weaker as objects get further away.
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is a large-scale physics experiment and observatory to detect cosmic gravitational waves and to develop gravitational-wave observations as an astronomical tool. Two large observatories were built in the United States with the aim of detecting gravitational waves by laser interferometry. These can detect a change in the 4 km mirror spacing of less than a ten-thousandth the charge diameter of a proton.
Rainer "Rai" Weiss is an American physicist, known for his contributions in gravitational physics and astrophysics. He is a professor of physics emeritus at MIT and an adjunct professor at LSU. He is best known for inventing the laser interferometric technique which is the basic operation of LIGO. He was Chair of the COBE Science Working Group.
The chronology protection conjecture is a hypothesis first proposed by Stephen Hawking that the laws of physics prevent time travel on all but microscopic scales. The permissibility of time travel is represented mathematically by the existence of closed timelike curves in some solutions to the field equations of general relativity. The chronology protection conjecture should be distinguished from chronological censorship under which every closed timelike curve passes through an event horizon, which might prevent an observer from detecting the causal violation.
Nathan Rosen was an American-Israeli physicist noted for his study on the structure of the hydrogen atom and his work with Albert Einstein and Boris Podolsky on entangled wave functions and the EPR paradox. The Einstein–Rosen bridge, later named the wormhole, was a theory of Nathan Rosen.
General relativity (GR) is a theory of gravitation that was developed by Albert Einstein between 1907 and 1915, with contributions by many others after 1915. According to general relativity, the observed gravitational attraction between masses results from the warping of space and time by those masses.
The Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics is a Max Planck Institute whose research is aimed at investigating Einstein's theory of relativity and beyond: Mathematics, quantum gravity, astrophysical relativity, and gravitational wave astronomy. The Institute was founded in 1995 and is located in Golm, Potsdam and in Hannover.
Clifford Martin Will is a Canadian-born theoretical physicist noted for his contributions to general relativity.
Black Holes & Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy is a 1994 popular science book by physicist Kip Thorne. It provides an illustrated overview of the history and development of black hole theory, from its roots in Newtonian mechanics until the early 1990s.
Ronald William Prest Drever was a Scottish experimental physicist. He was a professor emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, co-founded the LIGO project, and was a co-inventor of the Pound–Drever–Hall technique for laser stabilisation, as well as the Hughes–Drever experiment. This work was instrumental in the first detection of gravitational waves in September 2015.
Robert M. Wald is an American theoretical physicist who studies gravitation. His research interests include general relativity, black holes, and quantum gravity. He is also a science communicator and textbook author.
Gravitational waves are disturbances in the curvature of spacetime, generated by accelerated masses, that propagate as waves outward from their source at the speed of light. They were proposed by Henri Poincaré in 1905 and subsequently predicted in 1916 by Albert Einstein on the basis of his general theory of relativity. Gravitational waves transport energy as gravitational radiation, a form of radiant energy similar to electromagnetic radiation. Newton's law of universal gravitation, part of classical mechanics, does not provide for their existence, since that law is predicated on the assumption that physical interactions propagate instantaneously – showing one of the ways the methods of classical physics are unable to explain phenomena associated with relativity.
Gravitational-wave astronomy is an emerging branch of observational astronomy which aims to use gravitational waves to collect observational data about objects such as neutron stars and black holes, events such as supernovae, and processes including those of the early universe shortly after the Big Bang.
Eric Poisson is a Canadian award-winning physicist specializing in the study of black holes. Poisson is a professor at the University of Guelph as well as an affiliate member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
Alessandra Buonanno is a theoretical physicist working in gravitational-wave physics and cosmology. Since 2014 she is a director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam, Germany, leading the "Astrophysical and Cosmological Relativity" division. She holds a College Park professorship at the University of Maryland, College Park in College Park, Maryland, and is a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.
Barry Clark Barish is an American experimental physicist and Nobel Laureate. He is a Linde Professor of Physics, emeritus at California Institute of Technology. He is a leading expert on gravitational waves.
The first direct observation of gravitational waves was made on 14 September 2015 and was announced by the LIGO and Virgo collaborations on 11 February 2016. Previously, gravitational waves had only been inferred indirectly, via their effect on the timing of pulsars in binary star systems. The waveform, detected by both LIGO observatories, matched the predictions of general relativity for a gravitational wave emanating from the inward spiral and merger of a pair of black holes of around 36 and 29 solar masses and the subsequent "ringdown" of the single resulting black hole. The signal was named GW150914. It was also the first observation of a binary black hole merger, demonstrating both the existence of binary stellar-mass black hole systems and the fact that such mergers could occur within the current age of the universe.
Thorne grew up in an academic, Mormon family in Utah but is now an atheist. "There are large numbers of my finest colleagues who are quite devout and believe in God, ranging from an abstract humanist God to a very concrete Catholic or Mormon God. There is no fundamental incompatibility between science and religion. I happen to not believe in God."
LIGO is the largest single enterprise undertaken by NSF, with capital investments of nearly $300 million and operating costs of more than $30 million/year.