Australia's Chief Scientist

Congratulations to Australian Nobel Prize winner

Currently a Professor at the Australian National University, Professor Schmidt shares the prize with two others “for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe through observations of distant supernovae.”

It is the 12th Nobel Prize for an Australian, and the first in physics since 1915, an honour that did not escape Professor Schmidt.

“Im kind of weak in the knees… almost speechless at this point. I’m still trying to get my head around it,” he told ABC Radio.

Professor Schmidt shares the Nobel with collaborator and friend Adam Riess of the United States, and physicist Saul Perlmutter.

Their combined work studying exploding stars (supernovae) and the mysterious dark matter led to the discovery that the universe is expanding into a further disconnected state at an accelerating rate. This will probably lead to the end of the universe in ice, a finding nothing short of groundbreaking for physicists worldwide.

“Adam and I were working very closely at the time, trying to figure out this crazy result… it seemed too crazy to be right. We were a little scared,” Professor Schmidt reminisced of their work.

Albert Einstein famously proposed the theory that the universe was accelerating at an increasing rate in 1917, but doubted his findings, labelling it his “biggest blunder”.

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, spoke highly of his former colleague, noting the hardships the ANU team went through following the 2003 fires that destroyed ANU’s Mount Stromlo Observatory.

“It is an incredible achievement and an honour for Brian, as well as for Australians. As a country we should be very proud that such significant and pioneering research is being conducted on our home soil,” Professor Chubb said.

He hopes the Prize will inspire Australians to appreciate science and the sense of wonder it can ignite.

“Science is a remarkable process that explains almost everything about our world – from the tiniest cellular changes that can cause cancer, to the unfolding details of our universe and its future.”

In an interview with The Australian, Professor Schmidt attributed part of his success to the opportunities that were made available to him by moving to Canberra from the United States 17 years ago

“Being in Australia was probably absolutely essential for being part of this,” he said.

“I came here at the age of 27 and was (given the resources) to run an international team. And you know that’s a uniquely Australian thing.”

To read or listen to an interview with Professor Schmidt recorded shortly after the announcement click here.

Photo courtesy of Belinda Pratten and the Australian National University.