Canadian-American among winners of Nobel Prize for work to understand cosmos

Other two winners are Michel Mayo and Didier Queloz of the University of Geneva in Switzerland

In this Thursday, Aug. 11, 2005 file photo Swiss Astronomers Michel Mayor, right, and Didier Queloz, left, pose for the photographer at the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Geneva. (Laurent Gillieron, Keystone via AP)

A Canadian-American cosmologist and two Swiss scientists won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for exploring the evolution of the universe and discovering a new kind of planet, with implications for that nagging question: Does life exist only on Earth?

Canadian-born James Peebles, 84, an emeritus professor at Princeton University, won for his theoretical discoveries in cosmology. Swiss star-gazers Michel Mayor, 77, and Didier Queloz, 53, both of the University of Geneva, were honoured for finding an exoplanet — a planet outside our solar system — that orbits a sun-like star, the Nobel committee said.

“This year’s Nobel laureates in physics have painted a picture of the universe far stranger and more wonderful than we ever could have imagined,” said Ulf Danielsson of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which selected the laureates. “Our view of our place in the universe will never be the same again.”

Peebles, hailed as one of the most influential cosmologists of his time who realized the importance of the cosmic radiation background born of the Big Bang, will collect one half of the 9-million kronor ($918,000) cash award. Mayor, who is an astrophysicist, and Queloz, an astronomer who is also at the University of Cambridge in Britain, will share the other half.

The Nobel committee said Peebles’ theoretical framework about the cosmos — and its billions of galaxies and galaxy clusters — amounted to “the foundation of our modern understanding of the universe’s history, from the Big Bang to the present day.”

His work, which began in the mid-1960s, set the stage for a “transformation” of cosmology over the last half-century, using theoretical tools and calculations that helped interpret traces from the infancy of the universe, the committee said.

A clearly delighted Peebles giggled repeatedly during a phone interview with The Associated Press, recalling how he answered a 5:30 a.m. phone call from Stockholm thinking that “it’s either something very wonderful or it’s something horrible.”

He said he looked forward to travelling to the Swedish capital with his wife and children.

“I’ve always loved Bob Dylan. I can’t forgive him for not showing up to the scene of his Nobel prize,” he said, referring to the singer-songwriter’s refusal to participate in Nobel ceremonies after he won the 2016 literature prize.

Mayor and Queloz were credited with having “started a revolution in astronomy” notably with the discovery of exoplanet 51 Pegasi B, a gaseous ball comparable with Jupiter, in 1995 — a time when, as Mayor recalled — that “no one knew whether exoplanets existed or not.”

The committee said more than 4,000 exoplanets have since been found in the Milky Way since then.

READ MORE: Canadian physicist who won 2018 Nobel Prize touts science for the sake of science

The cash prize comes with a gold medal and a diploma that are received at an elegant ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of prize founder Alfred Nobel in 1896, together with five other Nobel winners. The sixth one, the peace prize, is handed out in Oslo, Norway on the same day.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Goran K Hansson, centre, Secretary General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and academy members Mats Larsson, left, and Ulf Danielsson, announce the winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics, during news conference at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden, on Tuesday Oct. 8, 2019. (Claudio Bresciani / TT via AP)

Just Posted

Local family invites the community to enjoy their Christmas light display

Kelly, Carrie, and Vincent Giesbrecht spent the last month decorating their home for the holidays

Japanese students visit LSS for cultural exchange

Ladysmith families hosted 35 students from Furukawa Gakuen High School

Campbell River mom’s iPhone containing priceless photos stolen from Victoria hospital parkade

The phone contained photos, heartbeat recordings of her late son

PHOTOS: Old Time Christmas 2019

Friday, December 6 was Ladysmith’s Old Time Christmas. Here are some of the highlights from the night

Student artwork on display in ‘Well Lit’ installation

Thoughtful Place Design, 49th Parallel, and Festival of Lights came together to showcase student art

China hints at national security trials for 2 Canadians detained for one year

The two Canadians’ detention is largely seen as retaliation for the arrest of a Huawei exec

B.C. seaplane company set to test the first commercial electronic plane

The plane is powered by a 750 horsepower electric motor

Fireballs to fill the sky Friday for brightest meteor shower of the year

Geminid meteor shower features colourful, brighter, longer shooting stars

Province sues over sailing incident that killed teen with disabilities

Gabriel Pollard, 16, died from injuries after marine lift failed

First Nations want Big Bar landslide cleared ASAP to allow fish passage

Leadership calling for urgent action and resources to remove obstruction on the Fraser

Assessed value of Lower Mainland homes expected to decrease in 2020

Other areas of province may see modest increases over last year’s values

Firefighters called to burning motorhome on Nanaimo’s waterfront

Nanaimo Fire Rescue extinguishes blaze Monday afternoon on Esplanade and Irwin Street

Chilliwack family’s therapy dog injured in hit and run

Miniature pit bull Fifty’s owner is a single mother facing close to $10,000 in vet bills

Most Read