In 1968, scientists thought they were close to detecting gravity waves

Excerpt from the June 22, 1968 issue of Science News

Joseph Weber

WAVE RUNNER  Joseph Weber (shown in 1969) announced he detected a gravity wave using his aluminum cylinder detector at University of Maryland in College Park. It took nearly five decades for LIGO to confirm that gravity waves can be detected.

Special collections/Univ. of Maryland Libraries

Gravity waves evidence

The long search for gravitational waves … may be in the final lap…. Rotating binary stars or, perhaps, other galaxies like the Milky Way but far beyond it, or the center of the Milky Way itself, are likely sources for gravitational radiation. — Science News, June 22, 1968.


Although Joseph Weber, a physicist at the University of Maryland, announced a gravity wave detection in 1969, no one could verify his claim. It took almost another 50 years for researchers to directly detect gravitational waves (SN: 3/5/16, p. 24). Those spacetime ripples from two merging black holes, glimpsed by the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, confirmed Einstein’s theory of gravity. Scientists have since spotted more gravitational waves from black holes (SN: 10/28/17, p. 8), as well as from colliding neutron stars (SN: 11/11/17, p. 6). A trio of spacecraft called LISA, slated to launch in 2034, will continue the search from space (SN Online: 6/20/17).

Cassie Martin is a deputy managing editor. She has a bachelor's degree in molecular genetics from Michigan State University and a master's degree in science journalism from Boston University.

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