“There are still many open questions … what in the world is this dark matter?” said James Peebles in accepting his Nobel prize in physics.
Peebles, who is 84 years old and was born in Winnipeg, has committed his life to untangling the incomprehensible complexity of the universe. On Tuesday, his achievements were formally decorated by the esteemed Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Peebles, widely considered the father of modern cosmology, was recognized for laying a foundation on which scientists could create an cosmic inventory of things the universe is made from. The universe as we know is made up of only 5% ordinary matter. The rest is dark matter and dark energy. He realized that faint microwave radiation which developed in the cosmos almost half a million years after the Big Bang contains important clues to the universe’s make-up and evolution.
“The prizes and awards, they are charming, much appreciated, but that’s not part of your plans. You should enter science because you are fascinated by it,” said Peebles.
Peebles’ award marks the second year in a row that a Canadian has received the Nobel prize in physics. Last year, Donna Strickland of Guelph, Ontario was recognized, together with Gérard Mourou of France, for the invention of chirped pulse amplification.
Two Swiss astronomers, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, were also awarded the Nobel prize in physics this year for their 1995 joint discovery of the first planet beyond our solar system.