Physics prize an unexpected but happy surprise for Schmidt

October 04, 2011 07:10 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 12:55 am IST - Stockholm:

Prof. Brian Schmidt is seen in this June 5, 2008 photo provided by the Australian National University.

Prof. Brian Schmidt is seen in this June 5, 2008 photo provided by the Australian National University.

“It feels like when my children were born,” exclaimed Brian P. Schmidt, co-winner of this year’s Nobel Prize winner for Physics, soon after the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences made the announcement in Stockholm on Tuesday.

Prof. Schmidt, a U.S.-Australian citizen, shares the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2011 with American scientists Saul Perlmutter and Adam G. Riess for their simultaneous discovery in 1998 that the universe is expanding at an ever-accelerating rate.

“I feel weak at the knees,” Prof. Schmidt told journalists who had gathered at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for the Nobel news conference. Speaking from his home in Canberra, Australia, Prof. Schmidt said that he did not expect the Prize but he was happy to receive it.

“It is something that people occasionally mention, but one thinks that it is probably not going to happen,” Prof. Schmidt said. Asked what he planned to do now, he joked that he was going to wander around a bit and then try to sleep. (It was 9 p.m. in Australia when the news broke.)

The 44-year-old American who grew up in Alaska and now lives in Canberra said that he would celebrate on Wednesday when he is due to teach a class in cosmology at the Australian National University.

The Nobel citation said that the trio were being awarded “for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe through observations of distant supernovae”, or exploding stars.

One half of the total Prize amount of 10 million Swedish krona (Over 7.1 crore Rupees) would go to Perlmutter from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California in the U.S., and the other half jointly to Prof. Schmidt and Prof. Riess, who is with the Johns Hopkins University and Space Telescope Science Institute in the U.S..

For almost a century, the universe has been known to be expanding as a consequence of the Big Bang about 14 billion years ago. However, the discovery that this expansion is accelerating has helped to unveil a universe that to a large extent is unknown to science.

If the expansion will continue to speed up, driven by an enigmatic “dark energy”, the universe will probably end in ice, the Nobel committee for Physics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

While Prof. Perlmutter began his research in 1988, a rival team headed by Prof. Schmidt, and comprising Prof. Riess, came together at the end of 1994.

Monday’s award of the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine went to Canadian scientist Ralph Steinman, Bruce Beutler of the U.S., and Luxembourg-born Jules Hoffmann. Steinman passed away on September 30, but the Nobel committee said in a statement after the announcement of the award that its decision would remain unchanged in spite of a rule that the Nobel Prize cannot be awarded posthumously.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry will be announced on Wednesday.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.