Canadian-born scientist James Peebles won the Nobel Prize in Physics “for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology.” (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canadian born James Peebles wins Nobel prize in physics this year

STOCKHOLM — Canadian-born scientist James Peebles is one of three researchers who have won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics for their contributions to the understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth’s place within it.

Peebles, born in the Winnipeg neighbourhood of St. Boniface, is a physics professor at Princeton University in New Jersey. He won the award “for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology.”

In announcing the award in Sweden on Tuesday, the Nobel committee said that Peebles’ work laid a foundation for the transformation of cosmology over the last 50 years and is the basis of our contemporary ideas about the universe “from the Big Bang to the present day.”

Peebles told a news conference he was uneasy about starting work in the field in 1964 at the invitation of professor Robert Dicke, who was his mentor.

“But I could think of one or two things to do in cosmology and each of them suggested something else and I just kept going,” he said.

“When the observations started catching up with the theory, I was at regular intervals startled at the great power in the advances in technology to test these ideas.”

Peebles said the awards and prizes are “very much appreciated” but said that’s not why young people should study the sciences.

“You should enter it for the love of the science,” he said.

“You should enter science because you are fascinated by it. That’s what I did.”

Peebles completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Manitoba before moving to Princeton for graduate school.

He received his PhD in physics from Princeton in 1962 and has taught at the university since, first as an instructor and researcher in the early 1960s and then as an assistant professor in 1965.

Peebles became an associate professor three years later and full professor in 1972. He transferred to emeritus status in 2000.

He says in his biography for Princeton that he has a “preference for underappreciated issues” in physical cosmology.

“They are not uncommon, despite the great advances from the small science I encountered a half century ago to today’s big science,” he writes in the bio.

“What might we learn from lines of research that are off the beaten track? They check accepted ideas, always a Good Thing, and there is the chance Nature has prepared yet another surprise for us.”

Peebles has honourary doctorates from a string of Canadian universities, including the University of Toronto, McMaster University and most recently the University of British Columbia. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Order of Manitoba.

The president of Princeton said his one-time professor exemplifies the university’s ethos.

“Jim Peebles is an extraordinary physicist, a man who has thought deeply and clearly about the structure of the universe,” Christopher Eisgruber said in a written statement.

“During my own time as a physics major, he was a popular teacher and a fixture in the undergraduate program, and I am among the many students who benefited from his superb instruction.”

Peebles shares the prize with Swiss scientists Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz won “for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star.”

Mayor and Queloz announced their discovery of the planet, known as 51 Pegasi B, 24 years ago.

The three men will share a 9 million kronor (C$1.2 million) cash award, a gold medal and a diploma. The laureates will receive them at a ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10.

This year’s double-header Literature Prizes will be awarded Thursday and the Peace Prize will be announced on Friday. The economics prize will be awarded on Oct. 14.

The 2018 literature prize was suspended after a scandal rocked the Swedish Academy. The body plans to award it this year, along with announcing the 2019 laureate.

— With files from The Associated Press

Just Posted

Highway 2 backed up near Red Deer by jacknifed semi

Avoid Highway 2 southbound in Highway 11 area

Kenney and cabinet ministers in Ottawa to meet federal counterparts

OTTAWA — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and eight of his cabinet ministers… Continue reading

Meet the apparel companies holding out against the offshore manufacturing tide

MONTREAL — Amid the whir of sewing machines, Jean-Philippe Robert surveys the… Continue reading

Peace in sight? Paris summit seeks solution for Ukraine war

PARIS — A long-awaited summit in Paris on Monday aims to find… Continue reading

Federal govt’s refusal to provide clean needles in prison to be challenged today

TORONTO — An Ontario court is set to hear today a constitutional… Continue reading

WATCH: CP Holiday Train supports Lacombe Food Bank

Madeline Merlo and JUNO Award nominee Scott Helman both performed

Your community calendar

Friday The Annual Old-Fashioned Country Christmas is being held Dec. 13 at… Continue reading

Brent Sutter and family are a strength of the community

Re: “Rebels owner/GM head coach Brent Sutter responds to allegations, Nov. 28.… Continue reading

Trudeau holds strings for now, but they could trip him up

The first tug of war between Justin Trudeau’s new minority government and… Continue reading

Canada’s Blondin captures pair of gold medals at speedskating World Cup

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan — Canada’s Ivanie Blondin captured two gold medals Sunday at… Continue reading

Anti-doping agency imposes 4-year ban on Russia

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Russia was slapped Monday with a four-year ban from… Continue reading

Golden snubs and surprises, including little ‘Cats’ love

NEW YORK — Some Golden Globe nominations seemed like locks: Joaquin Phoenix,… Continue reading

Toronto-shot series ‘The Expanse’ returns this week, thanks to fan base

TORONTO — They call themselves the Screaming Firehawks. They’re passionate fans of… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault heads to Hollywood to talk carbon and business

LOS ANGELES — After a tumultous legislature session, Quebec Premier Francois Legault… Continue reading

Most Read