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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

The Service Canada office in downtown Maple Ridge reopened on Wednesday. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Dalton rises in House of Commons to ask for Service Canada office opening

Office in Maple Ridge had been closed since start of pandemic, opened Wednesday

Maggie Coles-Lyster leads the pack during the annual racing of Jeremy’s Roubaix on Sunday.
After long break due to pandemic, bike racing returns to BC

Rock the Ridge brings racing back to Pitt Meadows Sunday

BC NDP candidate Lisa Beare said her party would replace Pitt Meadows secondary if re-elected. (Special to The News)
Election promises should bring new secondary school to Pitt Meadows

School board will be talking to new education minister soon: Carreras

If you have a letter you’d like to submit to the editor for consideration, please email us at <a href="mailto:editor@mapleridgenews.com"><strong>editor@mapleridgenews.com</strong></a>. Look forward to hearing your thoughts.
LETTER: Bad apples ruining social housing for all

Writer critical of system that penalizes law-biding residents over homeless who break the laws

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Stock photo
Pair’s lawsuit dismissed against Fraser Valley soccer association and churches

Judge in Abbotsford calls claims against 14 defendants ‘an abuse of the court’s process’

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

Most Read