There’s A New Top Astrophysicist in Town, Baltimore

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Professor Charles Bennett and members of his research team.

Don’t worry, Adam Riess — we still think you’re the dreamiest astrophysicist (and Nobel laureate) in town. But what prestigious prizes have you brought home this week? None! And so, while you’re slacking off at Ocean City or Monaco or wherever brilliant people spend their summers, we’ll turn our attention to another Baltimore smart guy:  Johns Hopkins professor Charles L. Bennett.

This week Bennett was awarded the Gruber Foundation’s annual cosmology prize for his research with NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, which scanned space looking for microwave radiation. Their findings have “formed the foundation for what scientists know about the makeup, origins and expansion of the universe,” according to the Baltimore Sun. Which sounds…. pretty important.

Some of their findings:  substantiating the Big Bang Theory (more or less), discovering that atoms make up less than 5 percent of the universe, giving the best (to-date) estimate for the age of the universe, and finding that the universe’s first stars formed when it was about 400 million years old. Basically, this team came up with a model for the universe’s birth and expansion that has become standard.

If you’re feeling sorry for Adam Riess, don’t be — his team won the prize back in 2007. Does that mean Bennett might be looking at a Nobel in the near future? We don’t see why not — and neither does Riess:  “Chuck Bennett and the WMAP team put the ‘precision’ in the new field of precision cosmology, and set the ‘standard’ for the Standard Cosmological Model,” he said in a press release.



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