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Very rubin observatory, Credit: Rubin Obs/NSF/AURA

Perimeter congratulates 2020 winners of the Nobel Prize in physics

account_circle By Patchen Barss
This year’s winners were honoured for their discoveries relating to black holes.

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three laureates — Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel, and Andrea Ghez — for their discoveries about black holes, one of the most exotic phenomena in the universe.

Genzel and Ghez were honoured for their discovery of a supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. Penrose won for his Singularity Theorem for Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, which demonstrated that black holes were a common and almost inevitable feature of the physical universe.

Penrose, who was a founding member of Perimeter’s Scientific Advisory Committee, published his Singularity Theorem in 1964, laying to rest a longstanding debate about whether singularities – the infinitely dense regions in the centres of black holes — were merely a theoretical quirk, or an actual facet of the cosmos.

That theorem set a new agenda for theoretical physics that continues to have repercussions today, affecting everything from theories about how the universe began, to last year’s breakthrough of the first image of a black hole, taken with the Event Horizon Telescope.

“It is breathtaking how far we’ve come in black hole research,” said Perimeter Director Robert Myers. “From questioning whether they even exist, to finding one at the heart of our own galaxy, to actually capturing images of an object so dense that not even light can escape. This is the power of foundational research. Congratulations to all three winners.”

“Roger Penrose’s Theorem illuminated the singularities and horizons of black holes, which continue to fascinate us. He also did so much more: He went on to introduce radical ideas such as spin networks and twistor theory, which have become widely used in diverse approaches to quantum gravity,” said Perimeter Faculty member Lee Smolin. “He is a great theorist and a good friend, and well deserving of this prize.”

Penrose and Ghez have both spoken at Perimeter about the work that led to today’s prize.

About PI

Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement. 

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