Trio wins Nobel Physics Prize

Image: AFP

Canadian-American cosmologist James Peebles and Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz won the Nobel Physics Prize on Tuesday for research increasing our understanding of our place in the universe, the jury said.

Peebles won one-half of the prize “for theoretical discoveries that have contributed to our understanding of how the universe evolved after the Big Bang”, professor Goran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, told a media conference.

Mayor and Queloz shared the other half for the first discovery, in October 1995, of a planet outside our solar system – an exoplanet – orbiting a solar-type star in the Milky Way.

“Their discoveries have forever changed our conceptions of the world,” the jury said.

Peebles is Albert Einstein Professor of Science at Princeton University in the US, while Mayor and Queloz are both professors at the University of Geneva.

Queloz also works at the University of Cambridge in England.

The Swiss pair hailed their win as “simply extraordinary”.

The prize consists of a gold medal, a diploma and the sum of nine million Swedish kronor (about R13.9m)

The three will receive the prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of scientist Alfred Nobel, who created the prizes in his last will and testament.

In 2018, the honour went to Arthur Ashkin of the US, Gerard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of the US for laser inventions used for advanced precision instruments in corrective eye surgery and in industry.

The 2019 Nobel prize season kicked off on Monday with the Medicine Prize awarded to Americans William Kaelin and Gregg Semenza, and Britain’s Peter Ratcliffe for research into how human cells sense and adapt to changing oxygen levels, which opens up new strategies to fight diseases such as cancer and anaemia. 

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