LIGO Gravitational Wave Triumph Proves Science Funding Pays Off
WASHINGTON, D.C., February 12, 2016 — Today’s LIGO gravitational wave observation — one of the greatest scientific triumphs in the last century — demonstrates that patient investment of taxpayer money can lead to profound, awe-inspiring discoveries about the universe around us.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) took a bold risk, when it funded the project about 40 years ago. LIGO had as its goal observing a prediction Albert Einstein had made 100 years ago based on his theory of general relativity. The experiment detected the gravitational wave produced by the collision of two “black holes.” The detectors — located in Louisiana and Washington states — measured changes in distance smaller than 1/1000 the size of a proton over a 4-kilometer range.
The news of the discovery comes in a time when NSF has found itself under attack by critics on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, and in the wake of budgets that have declined in real terms for the last three years. A science budget that fails to even keep up with inflation is not a good prescription for future American discoveries. And it is certainly not good for a U.S. innovation enterprise that is losing substantial ground to the rest of the developed world.
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