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Brian Schmidt, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Lectures at PKU

SEP . 17 2015
Peking University, September 14, 2015: Professor Brian Schmidt, the Nobel Laureate in Physics in 2011, at the invitation of the Peking University Global Fellowship, delivered a lecture titled “The Accelerating Universe: A Nobel Prize Millennia In The Making” at Sunshine Hall of the Yingjie Overseas Exchange Center in Peking University on September 07, 2015.


The Peking University Global Fellowship is one of the most important measures that PKU takes to accelerate its development into a world-class university. PKU will invite the world’s most prestigious scholars to give lectures, offer courses and initiate cooperative programs so that comprehensive innovation and development can be made possible. Since its launch in 2012, the PKU Global Fellowship has invited 20 leading experts in his or her discipline, including 8 Nobel Prize winners.

After a brief self-introduction from Professor Schmidt, the lecture started from the review of several famous theories in cosmology, from astronomy observation by ancient China and ancient Greek to the emergence of Einstein’s relativity. As the classical theories implied, due to the universal gravitation, the universe is decelerating. But in the 90‘s in 20th century, an observation by the Hubble Space Telescope showed the faster the galaxy moves away, the fainter it becomes. Since that time, Professor Schmidt and his team had observed the luminous intensity of around 50 distant supernovas, which provided strong evidence for the accelerating of expansion of the universe.


Meanwhile, Professor Schmidt pointed out that the accelerating universe was still uncovered, and the solution might be the result of dark energy. Nobody so far truly knows about dark energy, and so nobody knows if dark energy is causing an accelerating universe. “When we know nothing, then everything is possible,” he said. As the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics Words goes, “For almost a century, the Universe has been known to be expanding as a consequence of the Big Bang about 14 billion years ago. However, the discovery that this expansion is accelerating is astounding. If the expansion will continue to speed up the Universe will end in ice.”

In the end, Professor Schmidt told us the reason that he keeps studying cosmology and dark energy: “Because it’s interesting!” Professor Schmidt said. He continued that if the school committee or the sponsors asked him “why are we paying you to do this”, he would sincerely tell them because it’s useful. Professor Schmidt emphasized that the pure pleasure in research and the important relationship between cosmology and our social life. He also encouraged students to get involved in the study of cosmology.


"This is my first visit to Peking University, but surely not the last,” Professor Schmidt said. As the next Vice-Chancellor of Australian National University in 2016, he would love to see more communications between ANU and PKU in astronomy and other fields. After the lecture, Professor Schmidt visited The Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (KIAA) and had a profound colloquium with the scholars there.

Who is Brian Schmidt?
Brian Schmidt is a Distinguished Professor, Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and astrophysicist at the Australian National University's Mount Stromlo Observatory and Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and he is known for his research in using supernovae as cosmological probes. Schmidt shared both the 2006 Shaw Prize in Astronomy and the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics with Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess for providing evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, making him the only Montana-born Nobel laureate. He has been appointed the next Vice-Chancellor of The Australian National University (ANU), and will take up the position on 1st January 2016.

Written by: Fang Xinyi

Edited by: Zhang Jiang

Source: Office of International Relations