Big Bang wonks win Nobel for physics

Dr. John C. Mather of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has won the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Mather shares the prize with George F. Smoot of the University of California for their collaborative work on understanding the Big Bang.

NASA is hosting a news briefing with Mather at 3 p.m. EDT Tuesday. It will air live on NASA TV. + Watch NASA TV

Mather and Smoot analyzed data from NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), which studied the pattern of radiation from the first few instants after the universe was formed. In 1992, the COBE team announced that they had mapped the primordial hot and cold spots in the cosmic microwave background radiation. These spots are related to the gravitational field in the early universe, only instants after the Big Bang, and are the seeds for the giant clusters of galaxies that stretch hundreds of millions of light years across the universe.

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin had this to say, “I am thrilled to hear that Dr. John Mather has been selected to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics. John would be a world-class scientist no matter where he had chosen to spend his career, but we at NASA are enormously proud that he has chosen to spend it with us.”

The team also showed that the big bang radiation has a spectrum that agrees exactly with the theoretical prediction, confirming the Big Bang theory and showing that the Big Bang was complete in the first instants, with only a tiny fraction of the energy released later.

Biography of John C. Mather

Educational Background:

B.A., Physics, Swarthmore College (Highest Honors, Phi Beta Kappa), 1968
Ph.D., Physics, University of California at Berkeley (4.0 GPA), 1974

Brief Bio:

Dr. Mather joined the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland to head the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) Mission as Project Scientist. He has been a Goddard Fellow since 1994 and currently serves as Senior Project Scientist and Chair of the Science Working Group of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Mission. He is also working on the SAFIR , SPECS, GEST, and WISE missions. Dr. Mather’s numerous awards include the John C. Lindsay Memorial Award, National Air and Space Museum Trophy, AIAA Space Science Award, Aviation Week and Space Technology Laurels for Space/Missiles, Dannie Heinemann Prize for Astrophysics, Rumford Prize, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics, and membership in the National Academy of Sciences. He has been elected to the American Astronomical Society Council.

Research Interests:

Research interests include cosmology, far infrared astronomy and instrumentation, and Fourier transform spectroscopy

From NASA

4 COMMENTS

  1. GREAT ACCOMPLISHMENT IN PHYSICS
    THAT WILL PERHAPS ALLOW SOME TEXTBOOK STABILITY
    FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS

    U.S. Bureau of the Census, the total population of the World, projected to 10/04/06 at 04:34 GMT (EST+5) is

    6,548,159,696
    SINCE 1920 1 BILLION OF THE MOST
    HEALTHY ,MOST ABLE TO CONTRIBUTE
    IMMUNITY TO THE SPECIES,YOUNGEST,LOST.
    WHAT CAUSED THIS?PLEASE SOLVE THIS MATH PROBLEM.
    HOW LONG CAN THIS SPECIES EXPECT
    TO SURVIVE THIS ARBITRARY GENETIC LOSS?

  2. http://www.newscientistspace.com/article.ns?id=dn10216&feedId=online-news_rss20

    “The 2006 Nobel prize for physics has been awarded to John Mather and George Smoot for their contribution to the big bang theory of the origin of the universe.”

    http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/page.asp?id=1516

    Professor Stephen Hawking FRS – Big Bang and Infinity

    “This discovery was part of Stephen’s collaboration with Roger Penrose through which they used General Relativity to show that space and real time began with a Big Bang, and how they would end in black holes.”

    It seems a contribution to the big bang theory is at the same time a contribution to general relativity as well. Then why is this latter contribution not mentioned by the Nobel committee? Could this have something to do with the following confessions of Einstein’s:

    Einstein: “If the speed of light is the least bit affected by the speed of the light source, then my whole theory of relativity and theory of gravity is false.”

    Einstein again: “I consider it quite possible that physics cannot be based on the field concept,i.e., on continuous structures. In that case, nothing remains of my entire castle in the air, gravitation theory included, [and of] the rest of modern physics.”

    Pentcho Valev
    [email protected]

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