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Joseph Weber

Joseph Weber

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Joseph Weber was an American physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

. He gave the earliest public lecture on the principles behind the laser
Laser
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

 and the maser
Maser
A maser is a device that produces coherent electromagnetic waves through amplification by stimulated emission. Historically, “maser” derives from the original, upper-case acronym MASER, which stands for "Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation"...

 and developed the first gravitational wave
Gravitational wave
In physics, gravitational waves are theoretical ripples in the curvature of spacetime which propagates as a wave, traveling outward from the source. Predicted to exist by Albert Einstein in 1916 on the basis of his theory of general relativity, gravitational waves theoretically transport energy as...

 detectors (Weber bar
Weber bar
A Weber bar is a device used in the detection of gravitational waves first devised and constructed by physicist Joseph Weber at the University of Maryland...

s).

Early education


Joe Weber graduated from Paterson Eastside High School (and the Paterson Talmud Torah
Talmud Torah
Talmud Torah schools were created in the Jewish world, both Ashkenazic and Sephardic, as a form of public primary school for boys of modest backgrounds, where they were given an elementary education in Hebrew, the Scriptures , and the Talmud...

) in Paterson, New Jersey
Paterson, New Jersey
Paterson is a city serving as the county seat of Passaic County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, its population was 146,199, rendering it New Jersey's third largest city and one of the largest cities in the New York City Metropolitan Area, despite a decrease of 3,023...

 in the midst of the Depression. He began his undergraduate education at Cooper Union
Cooper Union
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, commonly referred to simply as Cooper Union, is a privately funded college in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, United States, located at Cooper Square and Astor Place...

, but to save his family the expense of his room and board he won admittance to the United States Naval Academy
United States Naval Academy
The United States Naval Academy is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located in Annapolis, Maryland, United States...

 through a competitive exam. He graduated from the Academy in 1940.

Naval career


He served aboard US Navy ships during WWII, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander
Lieutenant Commander
Lieutenant Commander is a commissioned officer rank in many navies. The rank is superior to a lieutenant and subordinate to a commander...

. A memorable experience was his service on the "Lady Lex" USS Lexington (CV-2)
USS Lexington (CV-2)
USS Lexington , nicknamed the "Gray Lady" or "Lady Lex," was an early aircraft carrier of the United States Navy. She was the lead ship of the , though her sister ship was commissioned a month earlier...

. Weber was the Officer of the Deck
Officer of the Deck
Officer of the deck is a position in the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard that confers certain authority and responsibility. The officer of the deck on a ship is the direct representative of the captain, having responsibility for the ship.-Overview:In port, the OOD is stationed on...

 on the Lexington when the ship received word of the attack on Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

. In the Battle of the Coral Sea
Battle of the Coral Sea
The Battle of the Coral Sea, fought from 4–8 May 1942, was a major naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II between the Imperial Japanese Navy and Allied naval and air forces from the United States and Australia. The battle was the first fleet action in which aircraft carriers engaged...

 his carrier sank the Japanese aircraft carrier Shōhō
Japanese aircraft carrier Shoho
Shōhō , the lead ship of her class, was a light aircraft carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II...

 and was in turn mortally damaged on May 8, 1942. Weber often regaled his students with the story of how the Lexington glowed incandescent as she slipped beneath the waves.

Later, he commanded the sub-chaser
Submarine chaser
A submarine chaser is a small and fast naval vessel specially intended for anti-submarine warfare. Although similar vessels were designed and used by many nations, this designation was most famously used by ships built by the United States of America...

 SC-690, first in the Caribbean, and later in the Mediterranean Sea. In that role, he took part in the invasion of Sicily at Gela Beach, in July, 1943.

He studied electronics at the Naval Postgraduate School in 1943, and from 1945–1948, he headed electronic countermeasures
Electronic countermeasures
An electronic countermeasure is an electrical or electronic device designed to trick or deceive radar, sonar or other detection systems, like infrared or lasers. It may be used both offensively and defensively to deny targeting information to an enemy...

 design for the Navy's Bureau of Ships
Bureau of Ships
The United States Navy's Bureau of Ships was established by Congress on June 20, 1940, by a law which consolidated the functions of the Bureau of Construction and Repair and the Bureau of Engineering. The new Bureau was to be headed by a Chief and Deputy-Chief, one selected from the engineering...

, in Washington, DC. He resigned from the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander in 1948 to become a professor of engineering.

Early Post-Naval Career; Development of the MASER


In 1948, he joined the engineering faculty of the University of Maryland, College Park
University of Maryland, College Park
The University of Maryland, College Park is a top-ranked public research university located in the city of College Park in Prince George's County, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C...

. A condition of his appointment was that he should quickly attain a PhD. Thus, he did his PhD studies, on microwave spectroscopy, at night, while already a faculty member. He completed his PhD, with a thesis entitled Microwave Technique in Chemical Kinetics, from The Catholic University of America
The Catholic University of America
The Catholic University of America is a private university located in Washington, D.C. in the United States. It is a pontifical university of the Catholic Church in the United States and the only institution of higher education founded by the U.S. Catholic bishops...

 in 1951. During the course of his doctoral research, he worked out the idea of coherent microwave emissions, and gave the earliest public lecture on the principles behind the laser
Laser
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

 and the maser
Maser
A maser is a device that produces coherent electromagnetic waves through amplification by stimulated emission. Historically, “maser” derives from the original, upper-case acronym MASER, which stands for "Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation"...

 at the Electron Tube Research Conference held in Ottawa
Ottawa
Ottawa is the capital of Canada, the second largest city in the Province of Ontario, and the fourth largest city in the country. The city is located on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the eastern portion of Southern Ontario...

 in 1952. These ideas were developed simultaneously by Charles Townes, Nikolay Basov
Nikolay Basov
Nikolay Gennadiyevich Basov was a Soviet physicist and educator. For his fundamental work in the field of quantum electronics that led to the development of laser and maser, Basov shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics with Alexander Prokhorov and Charles Hard Townes.-Early life:Basov was born in...

, and Aleksandr Prokhorov
Aleksandr Mikhailovich Prokhorov
Alexander Mikhaylovich Prokhorov was a Russian physicist known for his pioneering research on lasers and masers for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964 with Charles Hard Townes and Nikolay Basov....

, who built working prototypes of these devices, and received the Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 for this work in 1964.

Work on gravitational wave detection


His interest in general relativity
General relativity
General relativity or the general theory of relativity is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1916. It is the current description of gravitation in modern physics...

 led Weber to use a 1955–1956 sabbatical, funded by a Guggenheim Fellowship
Guggenheim Fellowship
Guggenheim Fellowships are American grants that have been awarded annually since 1925 by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to those "who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts." Each year, the foundation makes...

, to study gravitational radiation with John Archibald Wheeler
John Archibald Wheeler
John Archibald Wheeler was an American theoretical physicist who was largely responsible for reviving interest in general relativity in the United States after World War II. Wheeler also worked with Niels Bohr in explaining the basic principles behind nuclear fission...

 at the Institute for Advanced Study
Institute for Advanced Study
The Institute for Advanced Study, located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States, is an independent postgraduate center for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. It was founded in 1930 by Abraham Flexner...

 in Princeton, NJ and the Lorentz Institute for Theoretical Physics
Lorentz Institute
The Lorentz Institute, or Instituut-Lorentz in Dutch, was established in 1921 and is the oldest institute for theoretical physics in The Netherlands. Together with the experimental physics groups in the Kamerlingh Onnes Laboratory and the Huygens Laboratory, it makes up the Leiden Institute of...

 at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. At the time, the existence of gravitational waves was not widely accepted. Weber was the first to make a real attempt to detect these waves. After he began publishing papers on the detection of gravitational waves, he moved from the Engineering department to the Physics department at Maryland.

He developed the first gravitational wave detectors (Weber bar
Weber bar
A Weber bar is a device used in the detection of gravitational waves first devised and constructed by physicist Joseph Weber at the University of Maryland...

s) in the 1960s, and began publishing papers with evidence that he had detected these waves. In 1972, he sent a gravitational wave detection apparatus to the moon (the "Lunar Surface Gravimeter", part of the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package
Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package
The Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package comprised a set of scientific instruments placed by the astronauts at the landing site of each of the five Apollo missions to land on the Moon following Apollo 11...

) on the Apollo 17
Apollo 17
Apollo 17 was the eleventh and final manned mission in the American Apollo space program. Launched at 12:33 a.m. EST on December 7, 1972, with a three-member crew consisting of Commander Eugene Cernan, Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans, and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 remains the...

 lunar mission.

Claims of gravitational wave detection discredited


In the 1970s, the results of these gravitational wave experiments were largely discredited, although Weber continued to argue that he had detected gravitational waves. In order to test Weber's results, IBM
IBM
International Business Machines Corporation or IBM is an American multinational technology and consulting corporation headquartered in Armonk, New York, United States. IBM manufactures and sells computer hardware and software, and it offers infrastructure, hosting and consulting services in areas...

 Physicist Richard Garwin
Richard Garwin
Richard Lawrence Garwin , is an American physicist. He received his bachelor's degree from the Case Institute of Technology in 1947 and obtained his Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Chicago in 1949, where he worked in the lab of Enrico Fermi.Garwin is IBM Fellow Emeritus at the Thomas J...

 built a detector that was similar to Joseph Weber's. In six months, it detected only one pulse, which was most likely noise. David Douglass
David Douglass
David H. Douglass is an American physicist at the University of Rochester. Prof. Douglass received his B.S. in Physics from the University of Maine and his Ph.D. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After positions at MIT Lincoln Laboratories and MIT, he was appointed...

, another physicist, had discovered an error in Weber's computer program that, he claimed, produced the daily gravitational wave signals that Weber claimed to have detected. Because of the error, a signal seemed to appear out of noise. Garwin aggressively confronted Weber with this information at the Fifth Cambridge Conference on Relativity at MIT
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research.Founded in 1861 in...

 in June 1974. A series of letters was then exchanged in Physics Today
Physics Today
Physics Today, created in 1948, is the membership journal of the American Institute of Physics. It is provided to 130,000 members of twelve physics societies, including the American Physical Society...

. Garwin asserted that Weber's model was "insane, because the universe would convert all of its energy into gravitational radiation in 50 million years or so, if one were really detecting what Joe Weber was detecting." "Weber," Garwin declared, "is just such a character that he has not said, 'No, I never did see a gravity wave.' And the National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Health...

, unfortunately, which funded that work, is not man enough to clean the record, which they should."
The process of how physicists and the general public came to reject Weber's claims that he had found gravitational waves is described in several articles and the books Gravity's shadow by sociologist Harry Collins
Harry Collins
Harry Collins is a British professor at the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University. While at the University of Bath Professor Collins developed the Bath School approach to the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge...

 and Einstein's unfinished symphony by Marcia Bartusiak.

Later Reassessment of wave detection


New research, that is yet to be peer reviewed, is suggesting scientists re-examine his claims. His claim to have detected gravitational waves in 1987 from SN1987A had been largely considered discredited because the apparatus, which used non-cryogenic aluminum bars designed to vibrate in the wake of gravitational waves, was not thought sensitive enough to detect the supernova's gravitational wave. At the time, verification of his calculations ignored second order effects of spacetime distortion causing gravitational wave self interference. Second order spacetime
Spacetime
In physics, spacetime is any mathematical model that combines space and time into a single continuum. Spacetime is usually interpreted with space as being three-dimensional and time playing the role of a fourth dimension that is of a different sort from the spatial dimensions...

 analysis indicates that gravitational waves could be enhanced by four orders of magnitude if certain asymmetries exist. Analysis in 2008 showed that SN1987A possessed the sort of asymmetry needed to exhibit that second order magnification.

Legacy


Although his attempts to find gravitational waves with bar detectors are considered to have failed, Weber is widely regarded as the father of gravitational wave detection efforts, including LIGO
LIGO
LIGO, which stands for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, is a large-scale physics experiment aiming to directly detect gravitational waves. Cofounded in 1992 by Kip Thorne and Ronald Drever of Caltech and Rainer Weiss of MIT, LIGO is a joint project between scientists at MIT,...

, MiniGrail
MiniGrail
MiniGRAIL is an instrument that is designed to detect gravitational waves. The MiniGRAIL is the first such detector to use a spherical design. It is located at Leiden University in the Netherlands. The project is being managed by the Kamerlingh Onnes Laboratory...

, and several HFGW research programs around the world. His notebooks contained ideas for laser interferometers; later such a detector was first constructed by his former student Bob Forward at Hughes Research Laboratories.

The Joseph Weber Award for Astronomical Instrumentation
Joseph Weber Award for Astronomical Instrumentation
The Joseph Weber Award for Astronomical Instrumentation is awarded by the American Astronomical Society to an individual for the design, invention or significant improvement of instrumentation leading to advances in astronomy. It is named after physicist Joseph Weber...

 was named in his honor.

Personal life


Weber was the youngest of four children born in Paterson, New Jersey
Paterson, New Jersey
Paterson is a city serving as the county seat of Passaic County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, its population was 146,199, rendering it New Jersey's third largest city and one of the largest cities in the New York City Metropolitan Area, despite a decrease of 3,023...

, to Yiddish-speaking immigrant parents. His name was "Yonah" until he entered grammar school. He had no birth certificate, and his father had taken the last name of "Weber" to match an available passport in order to emigrate to the US. Thus, Joe Weber had little proof of either his family or his given name, which gave him some trouble in obtaining a passport at the height of the red scare
Red Scare
Durrell Blackwell Durrell Blackwell The term Red Scare denotes two distinct periods of strong Anti-Communism in the United States: the First Red Scare, from 1919 to 1920, and the Second Red Scare, from 1947 to 1957. The First Red Scare was about worker revolution and...

.

His first and only girlfriend was his grammer school classmate Emma L, ended with her death in 1971.

External links

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