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

VIU basketball teams winners in first home games of new year

Mariners men and women sweep past Okanagan Coyotes in PacWest action in Nanaimo

Poll: How satisfied were you with snow clearing in Nanaimo?

Several days’ worth of snowfall now melting away

VIU professor’s research helps volunteer firefighters cope with stress

Leigh Blaney developing tools to help emergency responders become resilient to emotional trauma

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP to observe pipeline protest in northern B.C.

Paul Manly, Green Party of Canada MP, to meet with hereditary chiefs and RCMP

U.K. press wonders if Nanaimo bars lured Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to Canada

‘Prince Harry’s favourite snack revealed,’ trumpets tabloid

After cashing in on QB gambles, Chiefs and 49ers to clash in Super Bowl

KC beats Tennessee, San Francisco dispatches Green Bay to reach NFL title game

B.C. VIEWS: Few clouds on Horgan’s horizon

Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along

Victoria family focuses on ‘letting go, enjoying time together’ after dad gets dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

Some experts say this could be worse for forestry than the 2008 financial crisis

Northern B.C. RCMP investigating alleged sexual assault in downtown Smithers

One person was transported by ambulance to hospital following RCMP investigation at Sedaz

UBC, Iranian-Canadian community create memorial scholarship in honour of victims

The Jan. 8 crash killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

Most Read