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Nobel Prize in Physics

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Federica Bianco, Department of Physics and Astronomy, on the Nobel Prize in Physics

Professor Bianco’s TED talk above has received over one million visits. Astrophysicist, professor, professional boxer and TED Fellow Bianco studies stellar explosions, using the same methodologies to understand urban and social problems. She uses data-science to both study the universe and tackle problems on earth, like pollution in New York City, prosecutorial justice and how city lights can create resilient electric grids. Bianco splits her time as a professor at the University of Delaware in the Department of Physics and Astrophysics (where she runs a lab focusing on light curves), the Biden School of Public Policy and Administration and the Urban Observatory, where she uses her astrophysics skills to study urban problems. She is also the coordinator the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Science Collaboration, a network of more than 1,500 scientists. The LSST, under construction in Chile, will go online in 2023 to survey the night sky and image the southern hemisphere sky at unprecedented depth and resolution. The collaboration will study everything about it, from the thousands of changes it will discover in the sky every night to billions of stars and galaxies, many that have never been seen before.

Roger Penrose, Andrea Ghez, and Reinhard Genzel

​“The award of this year’s Nobel prize in physics to Roger Penrose, Andrea Ghez, and Reinhard Genzel has been greeted with enormous pleasure by physicists and astronomers worldwide. It recognizes the central importance of black holes in modern astrophysics, and the unique contributions of these three scientists in establishing this. The physics that describes black holes comes from Einstein’s general theory of relativity (usually abbreviated to GR). GR is a little over a century old, and was from the start seen as a theory of unprecedented mathematical complication. After some early successes, such as the observation that the paths of starlight bent under gravity as they passed near the Sun, the huge algebraic complexity of GR rapidly made it a backwater of physics. Laboriously derived solutions of Einstein’s equations found no practical application for experiments to test the theory. Although one of these solutions hinted at properties we now know were characteristic of black holes, these were not understood at the time. In any case, they were often dismissed as artificial products of assumptions made for mathematical convenience. There seemed little hope of experimental tests that would reveal large and fundamentally new effects of GR. Penrose is the theoretical physicist who made the crucial discovery that began the resurrection of GR theory from this apparent impasse to its dynamic state today, where its predictions – particularly about black holes – are constantly tested and verified. Genzel and Ghez are the two astronomers whose observing teams independently verified the most extravagant prediction of GR by showing that our own galaxy, the Milky Way, has at its heart an enormously massive black hole described in intricate detail by the theory.” []

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