Nobel in Physics Is Awarded to 2 Americans

Dennis Overbye in the New York Times:

Two American astronomers who uncovered evidence about the origin of the universe and how it grew into galaxies were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics today.

The researchers, John Mather of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and George Smoot of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, will split the prize of 10 million Swedish kroners, about $1.37 million.

Dr. Mather and Dr. Smoot led a team of more than 1,000 scientists, engineers and technicians that built and launched the Cosmic Background Explorer, or Cobe, satellite in 1989 to study a haze of microwave radiation that is believed to be a remnant of the explosion that, according to the Big Bang theory, started the universe.

Cobe’s measurements of the temperature and distribution of the microwaves, including the detection of tantalizingly faint irregularities from which things like galaxies could have grown, were a resounding confirmation of the theory of a universe that was born in a terrific explosion of space and time 14 billion years ago and in which the ordinary matter that makes up stars and people is overwhelmed by some mysterious “dark matter.”

More here.