American physicist who in 1993 shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with
his former teacher, the astrophysicist Joseph H. Taylor, for their joint
discovery of the first binary pulsar.
PSR 1913 + 16 proved doubly important because it provided the first means of detecting gravity waves. The two stars' enormous interacting gravitational fields were affecting the regularity of the radio pulses, and by timing these and analyzing their variations, Taylor and Hulse found that the stars were rotating ever faster around each other in an increasingly tight orbit. This orbital decay is presumed to occur because the system is losing energy in the form of gravity waves. This finding, as reported by Taylor and Hulse in 1978, afforded the first experimental evidence for the existence of the gravitational waves predicted by Albert Einstein in his general theory of relativity.
In 1977 Hulse changed fields from astrophysics to plasma physics and
joined the Plasma Physics Laboratory at Princeton University. There
he conducted research associated with the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor,
an experimental nuclear-fusion facility.
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