Universe’s baby image earns $ 3 million – tech2.org

Universe’s baby image earns $ 3 million



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Astrophysicists who captured an image of the glow of the Big Bang – and confirmed the standard model of cosmology – won a $ 3 million Breakthrough Award on December 3.

The team behind NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) provided key evidence that supports the theory that the cosmos is composed mostly of dark energy and dark matter, with a small portion of ordinary matter.

"It's a well-deserved prize for an incredible experiment," says astrophysicist Andrew Jaffe at Imperial College London, which is a member of the team behind the Planck satellite of the rival European Space Agency. "The WMAP experiment is what made our current cosmological paradigm almost impossible to get out of."

The awards, totaling $ 22 million, were announced at a glamorous ceremony hosted by actor Morgan Freeman at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. Other awards were given for their work in the life sciences and mathematics. The initiative was created six years ago by Google founder Sergey Brin, Internet entrepreneur Yuri Milner, artist Julia Milner, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, pediatrician and philanthropist Priscilla Chan and Anne Wojcicki, founder of the genomics company 23andMe The previous winners judged the entries.

The WMAP team won the fundamental physics prize for mapping subtle temperature differences in the cosmic microwave background radiation that impregnated the Universe some 380,000 years after the Big Bang. Chuck Bennett at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, who is one of the five WMAP team leaders, says he is particularly grateful that the award was able to recognize the 27 members of the WMAP team, unlike the awards Nobel, which may not be shared by more than three people. "Everyone played an important role in the success of the experiment," says Bennett.

The probe helped pinpoint the age of the Universe to 13.8 billion years and details how it consists of just under 5% of ordinary matter, about 25% dark matter and about 70% dark energy, that pushes it to expand at an accelerated rate. Together, these parameters confirm the current paradigm established by the standard model of cosmology. But, interestingly, the most recent data from the Planck satellite show slightly different results.

"The discrepancies are real and serious," says Jaffe. The most likely explanation, he says, is that there are systematic errors in one or both experiments, or differences in their data badyzes that have so far been overlooked. But if they are maintained, the anomalies may indicate a deviation from the standard model.

Influential work

Joanne Chory, a plant geneticist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, won one of five $ 3 million life science awards. "I was surprised, because most of the awards go to biomedical areas," says Chory, who identified the mechanism of genetic signaling for photosynthesis by studying how mutant varieties of the mustard plant Arabidopsis thaliana react to different light conditions. Chory hopes the award will raise awareness of his initiative to tackle climate change by crossing plants to design varieties that can extract 20 times more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than normal, and store it underground. The other life sciences winners were: Don Cleveland, from the University of California, San Diego, who developed experimental gene silencing therapies and DNA drugs to treat diseases of the brain and nervous system; Kim Nasmyth at the University of Oxford, UK, who discovered how DNA accumulates in cells without becoming entangled; and Peter Walter at the University of California, San Francisco, and Kazutoshi Mori at the University of Kyoto, Japan, who worked to elucidate the quality control system in cells that detects unfolded proteins that have the potential to cause disease.

Mathematicians James McKernan of the University of California at San Diego and Christopher Hacon of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City shared the $ 3 million mathematics prize for their work in algebraic geometry, which expresses the solutions of certain equations as geometric shapes of greater dimension. They were recognized for their contributions to the "minimum model program", which seeks to find the simplest geometric solutions.

Six awards of $ 100,000 each were awarded to early career scientists, along with a youth advance award for the best original science or math video made by a teenager.

This article is reproduced with permission and was first published on December 4, 2017.

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