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Tuesday, October 3, 2006
S P E C I A L   E D I T I O N
George Smoot

George Smoot, 61, leader of a research team that was able to image the infant universe, revealing a pattern of miniscule temperature variations which evolved into the universe we see today, has been awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize for physics. He shares the award with John C. Mather of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The citation reads "for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation."

Smoot has been an astrophysicist at Berkeley Lab since 1974 and a UC Berkeley physics professor since 1994. Smoot becomes Berkeley Lab’s 11th Nobel laureate.

Said Per Carlson, chairman of the Nobel committee for physics, "Smoot and Mather may have not proven the big-bang theory but they give it very strong support. It is one of the greatest discoveries of the century. I would call it the greatest. It increases our knowledge of our place in the universe."

"My warmest congratulations go out to George Smoot and John Mather for being awarded the 2006 Prize in Physics for their precision investigation of the cosmic microwave radiation," said Berkeley Lab Director Steve Chu. "This is the 11th time the Nobel Prize has been awarded to an employee of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Nine of those awards were for work done at the Berkeley Lab, a legacy of which we are extremely proud."

On May 1, 1992, at a meeting of the American Physical Society, Smoot made an announcement that essentially silenced all the scientific critics of the Big Bang theory and helped change the course of future investigations into the origin and evolution of the universe. Smoot and his research team, after analyzing hundreds of millions of precision measurements in the data they’d gathered from an experiment aboard NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite, had produced maps of the entire sky which showed “hot" and "cold" regions with temperature differences of a hundred-thousandth of a degree. These temperature fluctuations, produced when the universe was smaller than a single proton, were consistent with Big Bang predictions and are believed to be the primordial seeds from which grew our present universe.

“At the time captured in our images, the currently observable universe was smaller than the smallest dot on your TV screen,” Smoot said, “and less time had passed than it takes for light to cross that dot." Full story.

Berkeley Lab Staff Invited to Press Conference, Reception

Lab employees are invited to attend a press conference today at 10 a.m. in the Building 50 auditorium, at which Berkeley Lab Director Steven Chu, himself a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, will introduce George Smoot to newspaper, radio and TV, and electronic media reporters. While the first few rows of the auditorium will be reserved for the press and other expected VIPs, staff can be seated on a space-available basis. Staff are also invited to a reception to honor Smoot in the cafeteria at 3 p.m. hosted by Director Chu.

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