October 21, 2020

Nobel Prize in Physics for three black hole researchers, including the fourth woman to win this award

Researchers Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for their discoveries about black holes and their relationship with the Theory of Relativity, and for finding one of them in the center of the Milky Way, he announced the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, reports EFE. Astrophysicist Ghez is the fourth woman to obtain the Nobel Prize in Physics after the Canadian Donna Strickland (2018), German-American Maria Goeppert-Mayer (1963) and Polish Marie Curie (1903). The award has been awarded since 1901.

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“I hope I can inspire other young women in this discipline. It is an area that provides a lot of satisfaction, and if you are passionate about science, there is much that can be done,” said the American, born in 1965, after hearing the news.

Penrose will receive the award for “the discovery that the formation of black holes is a robust prediction of the General Theory of Relativity”, formulated by Albert Einstein more than a hundred years ago.

His German and American colleagues, Genzel and Ghez, are distinguished by “for the discovery of a supermassive compact object in the center of our galaxy.”

It is an accolade shared by the discovery of “one of the most exotic phenomena in the universe, black holes”, summarized the Academy.

Penrose was born in 1931 in the United Kingdom and is a professor at the University of Oxford; Genzel was born in Germany in 1952, has directed the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics and practices at the University of California; Ghez was born in 1965 in New York and practices in Los Angeles.

According to the Nobel Academy, Penrose invented ingenious mathematical methods to explore the General Theory of Relativity and showed that it leads to the formation of black holes, those monsters in time and space that capture everything that enters them.

Although Einstein formulated the theory that predicts the existence of black holes, he never understood or accepted them.

Genzel and Ghez share the award for discovering that an extremely heavy, invisible object governs the orbits of the stars at the center of our galaxy, and a supermassive black hole is the only currently known explanation.

During the press conference held in Stockholm for the announcement of the award, Ghez intervened live by phone.

The scientist explained that when they discovered that massive object in the center of the Milky Way, the first thing she felt “was doubt” because “you have to prove that you are seeing it is really what you are seeing”, but also “emotion, a combination of both stuff”.

Physics highlighted the importance of knowing about black holes, which “are fundamental building blocks of the universe” and, when asked by journalists, they pointed out that it is not yet known what is inside them.

The announcement of the Nobel Prize in Physics follows the one in Medicine, yesterday, which fell on the American virologists Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice and the British Michael Houghton for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus.

Tomorrow he will announce the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and in successive days the Nobel Prize in Literature, Peace and finally Economics, next Monday.

All the prizes include a financial prize, which this year increased to 10 million Swedish crowns -one million more compared to 2019- (956,876 euros, 1,121,533 dollars), to be distributed in the event of more than one winner.

Both the announcements of the awards and the delivery will be in this edition in a reduced format due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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