Barry C. Barish


Interview, December 2017

Interview with Physics Laureate Barry C. Barish on 6 December 2017 during the Nobel Week in Stockholm, Sweden.

Barry C. Barish answers the following questions (the links below lead to clip on YouTube):
0:00 – How did you become interested in Physics?
3:56 – Who has inspired you?
5:19 – How important is mentoring?
6:51 – How did it feel to be awarded the Nobel Prize?
8:53 – What does the Nobel Prize mean to you?
9:50 – What makes the LIGO team so special?
11:33 – How important is collaboration in science today?
13:49 – How difficult was it to lead such a big group of scientists?
15:46 – How important is government support?
17:13 – If you could choose to be involved in any other discovery, what would it be?
19:07 – Do you think it’s important to interest young people in science?
20:22 – Do you have a favourite piece of advice for young people?
20:48 – What qualities do you need to be a successful scientist?
21:15 – What advice would you give to the younger you?
22:38 – How do you like to spend your free time?
23:27 – Do you think science can be seen as a creative subject?
24:06 – What are you looking forward to during your visit to Stockholm?

Nobel Minds 2017

The 2017 Nobel Laureates met at the Grünewald Hall in the Stockholm Concert Hall in Stockholm for the traditional round-table discussion and TV program ‘Nobel Minds’. The discussion was hosted by the BBC’s Zeinab Badawi.

Telephone interview, October 2017

“The actual size of the signal was about one thousandth the size of a proton!”

Nobel Laureate Barry C. Barish on the incredible sensitivity of the instrument used to make the discoveries which led to this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics. Barry C. Barish was interviewed following the announcement of the Nobel Prize in Physics on 3 October 2017. The interviewer is Adam Smith, Chief Scientific Officer of Nobel Media.

Transcript of the interview

Barry C. Barish: Hello?

Adam Smith: This is Adam Smith calling from, the website of the Nobel Prize in Stockholm. Well first of all congratulations on the award of the Nobel Prize.

BB: Oh thank you. Of course I’m humbled and thrilled.

AS: How did the news come to you?

BB: I guess a telephone call about 10 minutes ago, just before they started the session I guess. So I learnt just before you learnt, I guess.

AS: It really couldn’t have arrived any faster, the news, because the announcement of gravitational waves was only made last year.

BB: [Laughs] Yeah.

AS: Putting LIGO together and getting this result took many decades and an awful lot of work. Where did that dedication come from?

BB: I think that’s a harsh question to answer. I think there’s a personal part – you have to be someone who doesn’t need instant gratification. But I think the scientific goals and the technical challenges were the two things that equally motivated me. The technical challenges were technical challenges that were not unbeatable; it was just that we had to learn how to do things, and how to build a sensitive enough device. That took us 20 years after we built the first version of the LIGO detector. And of course the science is unbelievable, so I think it is not hard to be motivated for 20 years to do the kind of science we’re starting to be able to do.

AS: The precision of this instrument is quite unbelievable, isn’t it.

BB: Yes it is, the size of the effect that we measured from the first event, the merging of two black holes, the actual size of the signal was about one thousandth the size of a proton, what it did to our apparatus. So we were able to measure a movement, or change of length of the apparatus, by the passage of the gravitational waves to that accuracy and then measure its form well enough to decide what that was. So that’s pretty unbelievable.

AS: It’s a testament to human ingenuity isn’t it?

BB: And a testament to modern technology and science. I think this couldn’t have been done 50 years ago, or 20 years ago, or 30 years ago. It’s taken the best modern lasers and control and engineering to be able to do it.

AS: Will we be welcoming you to Stockholm in December?

BB: Yes of course.

AS: Lovely. It was great to talk to you. Congratulations again.

BB: OK, thank you. Bye bye.

AS: Bye bye.

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To cite this section
MLA style: Barry C. Barish – Interview. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2023. Mon. 11 Dec 2023. <>

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