Wednesday, October 9, 2019

This Year's Nobel Prize in Physics

Jim Peebles was awarded half of this year's prize for his foundational contributions to cosmology.  I've known him for 40 years -- he was my senior thesis advisor at Princeton and had already been the most influential figure in the field long before I met him.

Cosmology was actually a bit of a backwater from the 1930s until the discovery of the cosmic microwave background in 1965.  Peebles had a tangential role in that discovery (look it up -- it's a very famous story), and he played a central role in the development of the field for decades afterwards.  His most influential work has to do with the way that large-scale structure forms in the universe -- how small fluctuations in the density grow with time to give us galaxies and everything that goes with them.  (Peebles was also the best physics teacher at Princeton, at least when I was there).  So this is a well-deserved prize.  Jim is the nicest of all of the geniuses I've met -- and I've met quite a few.