China needs patience, persistence for Nobel Prize:laureate

Updated: 2012-08-30 21:15


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BEIJING - Nobel Prize laureate Brian P. Schmidt has told China to be patient and persistent and give the best and brightest the autonomy to do their work.

He said that if people were given this opportunity, then it might lead China to win a Nobel Prize in the future, said Schmidt on the sidelines of the 28th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) held on August 20-31.

"Time is on the side of the Chinese people," he said, adding China had been investing heavily in science and technology since the 1990s, and it required patience and persistence for China to win a Nobel Prize.

Schmidt shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics with Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess for providing evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.

Before their discoveries, it was commonly thought that the expansion of the universe was slowing down.

With a dual citizenship of the United States and Australia, Schmidt went to Australia at the age of 27 and got an opportunity to work on his project at the Australian National University.

He went to Australia because it had equipment like telescopes, which had been built there in the 1940s and 1950s. This helped create astronomers who were Schmidt's mentors.

Australia helped guide him through his work, which eventually led to a Nobel Prize.

"They did not give me a lot of money but a nod, something that I could not get in the United States. They allowed a 27-year-old to be in charge," Schmidt said. "You don't win a Noble Prize for doing things that everyone has expected; you do something unexpected."

By monitoring the brightness and measuring the redshift of the supernovae, Schmidt and his partners discovered that billion-year old exploding stars and their galaxies are accelerating away from their reference frame.

Their discoveries led to research on dark energy, a hypothetical form of energy that permeates all of space and tends to accelerate the expansion of the universe. In 1994, Schmidt had finished his Ph. D. thesis, which was measuring how fast the universe was expanding.

Everything in the universe is moving apart from everything else. They do the measurement by looking into the universe's past and measure how fast galaxies are moving apart.

"We found a surprise. What I was expecting to see was that the universe was slowing down over time, but what I've found was the universe is expanding slower in the past, and is expanding more quickly now, and it is speeding up. That's like taking a ball, throwing it up in the air, rather than having it to come back to ground, it moves faster and faster away over time. That is the acceleration of the cosmos that my team and another team in Berkeley discovered in 1998," he said.

Then it took 13 years and hundreds of experiments to test their results in order to make sure it was correct, Schmidt said, adding the Swedish committee admitted that "it is crazy but it is right."

"Eventually, the galaxies I study today will be moving so quickly away from us and the space will be created so quickly between us, and the light they emit will never reach us. In the future, cosmologists will not exist, because there will be nothing for them to study," he said.

Schmidt said the way science and technology works is to make connections of ideas that are not obviously connected, and abilities are needed to translate new ideas and revolutions that come from down below to outcomes that make life better.

"China is really good at the outcomes right now. What China needs to do is the bubbling of ideas from below," he said.