Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Renowned Astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter to Receive Carnegie Mellon's Dickson Prize in Science
PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University will award its 2009 Dickson Prize in Science to Saul Perlmutter, an astrophysicist best known for the revolutionary finding that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. Perlmutter will receive the award, which includes a medal and a cash prize, before giving the Dickson Prize lecture at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 17 in McConomy Auditorium in the University Center on Carnegie Mellon's Oakland campus. His lecture, titled "Stalking Dark Energy and Mysteries of the Expanding Universe," is free and open to the public.
The prestigious Dickson Prize in Science, established in 1969 by the late Pittsburgh physician Joseph Z. Dickson, and his wife Agnes Fisher Dickson, is awarded annually to individuals in the United States who make outstanding contributions to science.
Perlmutter, a professor in the University of California at Berkeley's Department of Physics and a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, leads the Supernova Cosmology Project, an international collaboration of research teams from seven countries that are measuring the expansion history of the universe. The group is best known for discovering that the universe is growing at an increasing speed, contrary to what previously had been believed. The finding from a series of observations, which could be due to Einstein's cosmological constant, was named Science Magazine's 1998 Breakthrough of the Year.
The Supernova Cosmology Project researchers observed light coming from distant exploding stars, called supernova. From that light they were able to gain valuable information about the universe's history and future. Prior to the group's analysis, it was thought that the expansion of the universe was decelerating, and eventually the universe would stop growing. In their groundbreaking research, Perlmutter and his colleagues found the opposite to be true — the universe was expanding at faster and faster rates with no apparent end to its growth. The finding implied that the mysterious dark energy first hypothesized by Einstein in his "cosmological constant" was counteracting gravity, causing the universe to swell.
For this research, Perlmutter has received numerous awards and honors, including the E.O. Lawrence Award in Physics from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Henri Chretien Award from the American Astronomical Society and the International Antonio Feltrinelli Prize. He shared the Padua Prize, the Shaw Prize in Astronomy and the Gruber Cosmology Prize.
A prolific author, Perlmutter has written more than 100 papers in the field of physics, astrophysics and cosmology, addressing such topics as the cosmological constant, dark energy, supernovae, pulsars, gravitational lenses, massive compact halo objects and advanced detector systems for astrophysics. Perlmutter is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
By: Jocelyn Duffy