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


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50 Years Ago

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

Excerpt from the June 22, 1968 issue of Science News

12:00pm, June 15, 2018
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.

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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).


SN Staff. Gravity waves evidence. Science News. Vol. 93, June 22, 1968, p. 593.

Further Reading

L. Grossman. What detecting gravitational waves means for the expansion of the universeScience News. Vol. 192, November 25, 2017, p. 10.

E. Conover. Neutron star collision showers the universe with a wealth of discoveriesScience News. Vol. 192, November 11, 2017, p. 6.

E. Conover. Trio of detectors tracks gravitational waves to their homeScience News. Vol. 192, October 28, 2017, p. 6.

L. Grossman. Satellite trio will hunt gravitational waves from space. Science News Online. June 20, 2017.

A. Grant. Gravity waves from black holes verify Einstein’s predictionScience News. Vol. 189, March 5, 2016, p. 6.

C. Crockett. Gravitational waves explainedScience News. Vol. 189, March 5, 2016, p. 22.

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