Nobel Prize winner Kip Thorne to share "My Journey" on July 19
Tuesday, Jul. 03, 2018
Six decades removed from his graduation from Logan High School, Nobel Prize winner Kip Thorne is returning to Cache Valley to present a lecture entitled “My Journey through Space and Time: The Big Bang, Black Holes, and Gravitational Waves.”
The presentation, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 4 p.m. Thursday, July 19, at the Logan High School Auditorium.
A Logan High School classmate of late Aggie football legend Merlin Olsen, Thorne will be in Cache Valley to attend the 60th reunion of the Class of 1958 on July 20.
Thorne, who is the son of two former Utah State professors, received an honorary doctorate from USU in 2000 when he served as the university’s commencement speaker.
“My family and I–and my 70-year quest to explore the universe–all have deep roots in Northern Utah,” Thorne said. “I’m grateful for this opportunity to share some glimpses of that quest with the community.”
A native of Logan, Thorne shared the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics with fellow American physicists Rainer Weiss and Barry Barish for their work on the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO). The longtime professor at the California Institute of Technology also received acclaim for this significant contributions to the production of the 2014 film Interstellar.
Bruce Bishop, the dean of USU’s College of Engineering from 1982 to 2002 and a Logan High classmate of Thorne’s, asked his longtime friend if he would be interested in presenting a public lecture, and Thorne “readily agreed.”
“I think this is a really unique opportunity for the valley to have someone like Kip here,” Bishop said. “It’s not going to be a technical lecture. He’ll do it on a level that will be appreciated, understood and provide insights to everybody, whatever their background.
“Here’s a guy who knows how things work out there in space and time, and he’s able to bring it down to a level where people can understand and appreciate the forces that are at work out there. So, I think it will be super interesting and entertaining.”
Thorne is the oldest of five children born to D. Wynne and Alison Comish Thorne. His father was agronomist who ran the Agricultural Experiment Station until becoming Utah State’s first vice president for research in 1965, while his mother taught economics at USU.
After graduating from Logan High, where he played saxophone in a band with Bishop and some other friends, Thorne ended up attending the California Institute of Technology, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in 1962. He went on to earn a Ph.D at Princeton, before returning to Caltech and becoming a full professor of theoretical physics at the age of 30.
Thorne served as the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech until 2009, when he stepped down in order to focus more of his time on research, writing and making movies. That led to him serving as a scientific consultant and helping author the story behind Interstellar, the 2014 film directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine that ended up making more than $675 million worldwide.
But bigger than the glitz and glamour of Hollywood was the announcement in October 2017 that Thorne, Weiss and Barish would be sharing the Nobel Prize for their work in detecting gravitational waves. Weiss, a professor at MIT, and Barish, a professor at Caltech, collaborated with Thorne on the construction and implementation of the two LIGO facilities in Louisiana and Washington state, which helped observe the universe’s gravitational waves for the very first time, something that Albert Einstein had predicted a century earlier.
Thorne is the second Nobel Prize recipient to come out of Logan High School. In 2013, Lars Peter Hansen, a 1974 graduate of Utah State University, was honored with the Nobel Prize in economic sciences. Six months later, Logan city and USU renamed 800 East between 700 North and 1400 North, “Lars Hansen Drive.”
Following suit, on Friday, July 20, the city of Logan will place a sign near the site of Thorne’s boyhood home at the intersection of 400 East and the Boulevard referring to the thoroughfare as “Kip Throne Boulevard.” The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.