Nobel Prize for Astrophysicists.
It took a long time for the Nobel Commission to take seriously the scientists who explore the mysteries of space. Throughout 118 years of Nobel history, awards to astronomers, radio astronomers, astrophysicists and cosmologists could be counted on the fingers. Fortunately, in recent years, something has shaken, and the study of the universe is gaining recognition. And so, in 2006, the Nobel Prize was awarded for the analysis of the anisotropy of microwave background radiation, in 2011 was marked by measurements of the speed of expansion of the universe, and in 2017 the Laurus was awarded to researchers of gravitational waves. These scientists were Robert Dick and Jim Peebles, Jr.
A few years earlier, the prominent theorist George Gamow had suggested that if the universe in its youth was dense and hot, now the entire space should be filled with some form of relict radiation. His colleagues at Princeton made calculations and gave the concept specific forms. Peebles had to deal with the assumed background temperature, which after a few billion years should have been below 5K (now we know it is 2.7K). The point above the “i” was to be observed by a radio telescope installed on Princeton campus. Shortly before the study began, Dickie received a call from Penzias, who informed him of his happy discovery. The data left no illusions: two young men from Bell Laboratories had the honor of finding the Holy Grail of Cosmologists. By chance, they came across the most important piece of evidence to prove the correctness of the big bang theory. They undoubtedly deserve their place in the history of science. At the same time, it is difficult to get rid of the impression that the decision to award them the Nobel Prize bypassing Gamow, Dick and Peebles was somewhat unfair.
Because he figured out what the universe was made up of.
A few months ago, on another platform, I published a text in which I tried to outline what and in what proportion is produced on the content of the universe. It would not have been possible to create it if it had not been for the detailed data taken from one of the most interesting scientific publications I have ever found in my hands: “The Space Energy Inventory” by Masataki Fukugita and James Peebles. As the title suggests, the duo made a heroic effort, considering the modern cosmological theories underlying the census of all components of the universe. In fact, everything without exception. Physicists have taken into account all known forms of matter, each type of radiation and all existing energy. Why is it so great? If you have dealt with any book on cosmology, you have probably heard that the main distortion of the universe is dark energy and dark matter. However, it is unlikely that anyone will specify what exactly is hiding the remaining ~5%. From Peebles and Fukugita, we learn that most of the “normal” baryonic matter is becoming a dilute medium that fills the intergalactic space. All stars with planetary systems are mixed by 0.15% of the total mass / energy cosmic balance. White dwarfs are 0.036%. Black holes 0.007%. 0.005% of neutron stars. And so on. Physicists have even taken into account details such as the energy emitted by stars or the mass of cosmic neutrinos, all of which should influence the evolution of the universe.
Scientists have finally had to face the so-called problem of the rotation curve in their research. Analysis has shown that at known values of kinetic energy and gravity (Ostriker-Pibles criterion) galactic disks showed complete instability. Their masses, calculated solely on the basis of the stars and the “luminous” matter we knew, looked too low. Because Peebles and Ostreaker were well acquainted with the concept of Zwicki, and also regularly exchanged views with Rubin, they dared to make innovative adjustments to the equations. They began their article in the Hitchcock style: There is evidence, increasing in quantity and quality, to believe that the masses of ordinary galaxies can be underestimated by a factor of 10 or more. Although scientists exaggerate a bit in their reports, in principle they nail the head. Adding a lot of extra mass to the galactic disk, mathematical models have begun to correspond to what we see in nature. Despite initial resistance, due to further research and discovery (especially gravity lensing), the concept of missing mass is well-established in modern science. We no longer ask if dark matter exists, but what particles create it?
Of course, this is only part of Jim Peebles' substantial production. The Canadian belongs to an underestimated category of scientists, who may not have been lucky enough to discover the stunning, but they have gradually expanded their fields, plunging their fingers into almost all important concepts.
Whether you're taking a textbook on the Big Bang, dark matter, dark energy, cosmological models or future scenarios for the universe, you'll surely find the name of the recently baked Nobel Prize winner.