Nobel in physics is a two-fer: Big Bang and exoplanets

Image of the universe starting in a big bang and evolving into the present

Enlarge (credit: NASA)

Today’s Nobel Prize in physics was evenly split between two
discoveries and, thus, unevenly split among the three honored.
Typically when this happens, the two discoveries are at least
somewhat related; that doesn’t seem to be the case here, as the
Prize Committee has recognized James Peebles for his contributions
to theoretical cosmology and Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for the
first clear discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a main sequence
star.

The physics of the Big Bang

It’s hard to find anything related to our current understanding
of the Big Bang that doesn’t have Peebles’ fingerprints on it. He
was at Princeton University (where he remains) when Arnold Penzias
and Robert Wilson at nearby Bell Labs had identified the cosmic
microwave background (CMB) that was produced in the aftermath of
the Big Bang. Not fully aware of the importance of their discovery,
Penzias and Wilson talked to the scientists at Princeton. As a
result, Peebles was on a paper that described the theoretical
underpinnings of the CMB published in the same issue as the
write-up describing the CMB’s discovery.

Peebles immediately went to work trying to understand the
physics underlying different aspects of the Big Bang, showing how
temperature and matter density influenced the production of helium
in the Universe’s earliest moments. Not being satisfied with that,
he started considering how these conditions could influence the
production of the Universe’s first galaxies.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Nobel in physics is a two-fer: Big Bang and exoplanets