Awesome universal chirp

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Science  23 Dec 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6319, pp. 1507
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam6151

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In 1978, while I was an undergraduate student, Kip Thorne came to Stanford University to give a seminar on a proposed search for gravitational waves. The auditorium quickly filled with experts and inquisitive students like me. As Thorne described a quest for these ripples in space-time, the audience grew palpably skeptical. Albert Einstein had predicted the existence of gravitational waves based on his theory of general relativity, but even he was doubtful that they would ever be detected because they were anticipated to be so weak. Listening to Thorne propose an approach for measuring such waves, I had no idea that he and his colleagues were about to begin a 40-year journey to discover what Science now recognizes as the 2016 Breakthrough of the Year. The announcement that gravitational waves had indeed been detected opens up a new window into the universe (see the News story on p. 1516).