The long road to LIGO

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Science  05 Aug 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6299, pp. 534-535
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6299.534

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The quest to build the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) was a story of ingenuity and persistence—and a decades-long scientific soap opera. In 1972, Rainer Weiss, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, described how a device called an interferometer could detect ripples in spacetime. But LIGO, two giant interferometers in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, didn't take data until 2002. It finally scored a discovery on 14 September 2015, after a 5-year, $205 million upgrade. During the intervening decades—especially in the 1980s and early 1990s—the project was marked by dysfunction and personal conflict. Through it all, Weiss dealt with the frustrations and setbacks in his own particular way, those closest to him say: He worked more.