Stanford professor wins Fundamental Physics prize

Aug. 2, 2012, 2:26 a.m.

On July 31, Stanford physics professor Andrei Linde became one of the inaugural recipients of the Fundamental Physics Prize. The Milner Foundation in Russia recognized eight physicists in addition to Linde, and founder Yuri Milner personally chose Linde to receive the award for his work on cosmic inflation.

Originally proposed by fellow Fundamental Physics Prize recipient Alan Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, cosmic inflation is a modification of the Big Bang theory that explains how the universe was formed from a tiny, rapidly inflating piece of space.

Linde has been developing his theory since the early 1980s, and he has watched his work transform from apparent science fiction into a cosmologic model. His versions of the inflation model correctly predicted observations of the sky and were supported by multiple experiments testing inflation and other alternative theories.

The Fundamental Physics Prize is one of the highest paying academic prizes: instead of splitting the reward, each recipient was given $3 million. In the future, the Milner Foundation plans to give the award to one scientist each year, and Linde and the other eight winners will form the selection committee.

“We now have the ability to say these people are doing something fantastic,” Linde said in an article in the Stanford News Service. “They might not get wide scientific recognition until there is experimental proof, but that is maybe 10 years from now, so let’s do something good for them right away if we all agree that what they’re doing is great.”

— Kylie Jue

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