Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Nobel Prize Goes to Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz (& James Peebles)

This years Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to James Peebles for work on how the Universe expands (I don't get it) and to Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for discovering the first verified planet that orbits a Sol type star.

The very first finding of another planet happened in only 1992(!), which seems a long time ago now, but is really a wink of time.

Before Misters Mayor and Queloz identified a planet, exoplanets were a source of conjecture. The thinking went like this (paraphrasing Carl Sagan):

"Just suppose there are a billion stars out there. Even if only one in 10,000 has planets, then there might be up to 10 million planets. And with a 10 million planets it strains belief to believe ours is the only one with life on it."

Turns out that a shitload more than 1 in 10,000 systems have planets. We have discovered, with the tools delivered by Misters Mayor and Queloz: big planets, little planets, super hot giants, super cold dwarfs and everything in between, including earth-like planets, giant planets with earth like atmospheres and a planet of actual dinosaurs*.

We have, in fact, discovered the universe is a great and fascinating place we may be able to explore one day, if we don't blow ourselves up.
Dider and Michel (I feel on a first name basis)
Gentlemen, congratulations.  You're discovery gives us hope and returns a sense of awe to us all.

*Just checking if you're still reading.

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