Starmus speaker wins Nobel Prize for Physics for work on black hole formation

Photo: Sir Roger Penrose.

Starmus III took place here in Tenerife in 2016, the last time it was held here, and I wrote THIS series of notes on the papers given by some incredible names. Some were astronauts, some indeed moon walkers, others were Nobel laureates. Yet others were neither but gave talks that brought alive areas and fields of study that were so theoretical that they were like looking at an abstract painting until the audience was guided through the complexity.

One of those in this last category whose lecture was received ecstatically was Roger Penrose. And yet he had eschewed all new technology to give his paper, and still held the audience in the palm of his hand. As I wrote at the time:

A different approach to the Big Bang was taken by Sir Roger Penrose, who used geometry – and an overhead projector (from a museum, he said!) – to look at what happened just before the Big Bang, rather than the usual approach of looking at what happened just afterwards. As he explained, size is not part of hyperbolic geometry, and when looking at the traditional inverse cone-shaped diagram used to show the expansion of the universe, this allows you to squash down infinity, i.e. to represent infinity finitely, or stretch out the Big Bang start point at the other end. By doing so, you can find that geometry gives you a tube, rather than a cone, which means there wouldn’t have to be an explosive expansion immediately after the Big Bang at all, and could suggest that the perceived expansion took place before the critical event. It would then naturally follow, of course, that there was not one Big Bang, nor an infinite universe, but a repeated series of them.

From today, however, it will no longer be possible to include Sir Roger in the third category of speakers at Starmus who were neither astronauts nor Nobel laureates because today he is the lead member of a team of three who have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for work on the development of black holes. Sir Roger’s contribution was for “using ingenious mathematical tools to prove that the formation of black holes are predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity”.

Many congratulations to Sir Roger Penrose, Nobel laureate.

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