Nobel Laureate in Physics Prof George Smoot Discusses Discovery of Gravitational Waves and its Way Forward at HKUST 25th Anniversary Distinguished Speakers Series


The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) hosted the 25th Anniversary Distinguished Speakers Series today, featuring Prof George Smoot, Nobel Laureate in Physics 2006 and IAS Helmut & Anna Pao Sohmen Professor-at-Large of HKUST.  The event was well received by students, faculty members and guests from HKUST.

In his talk titled “Gravitational Waves, Colliding Black Holes and the Advanced LIGO Detections”, Prof Smoot shared with the audience the fascinating discovery of a century-old prediction – gravitational waves – that was first anticipated by renowned theoretical physicist Albert Einstein.  The waves, ripples in the fabric of space-time, were first detected by the advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in September last year as two black holes collided in a distant galaxy more than one billion light years away from Earth.  Such detections, according to Prof Smoot, will lead scientists worldwide to new views of black holes, astronomy of things we only see in gravitational waves, and tests of General Theory of Relativity.

“This groundbreaking observation did not come easy but it confirms Albert Einstein’s last remaining unproven prediction of General Relativity and validates his predictions of space-time distortion in the context of large-scale cosmic events,” Prof Smoot said. “It also inaugurates the new era of gravitational wave astronomy, which promises many more observations of interesting and energetic objects as well as more precise tests of General Relativity and astrophysics.”

Prof Smoot was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006, jointly with Prof John Mather, for their work that led to the discovery of the black body form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation.  This work helped further the Inflationary Universe and the Big Bang theory of the universe.

Prof Smoot received his Bachelor degrees in Mathematics and Physics and his PhD in Physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  He has been at the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 1970.  He is also Chair of the Endowment Fund “Physics of the Universe” of Paris Center for Cosmological Physics.  He has joined HKUST Jockey Club Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) as IAS Helmut & Anna Pao Sohmen Professor-at-Large since January 2016.

Prof Smoot was elected as a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Physical Society.  He has been honored by several universities worldwide with doctorates or professorships.  He was also the recipient of the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement (1991), Lawrence Award from the US Department of Energy (1995), Einstein Medal from Albert Einstein Society (2003), Daniel Chalonge Medal from the International School of Astrophysics (2006) and Gruber Prize in Cosmology (2006).

Prof Smoot is an author of more than 500 science papers and is also co-author of the popularized scientific book Wrinkles in Time that elucidates cosmology and the discovery of NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer.  A great teacher and a keen advocate of popular science, Prof Smoot received the Oersted Medal in 2009 for his notable contributions to the teaching of physics.

Speakers of the HKUST 25th Anniversary Distinguished Speakers Series include Nobel Prize laureates, corporate leaders, entrepreneurs and key financial policy shapers.  Prof Steven Chu, Nobel Laureate in Physics in 1997 and former US Secretary of Energy, was the inaugural speaker of the series.  For more details, please refer to More talks are being lined up.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Anita Lam
Tel: 2358 6313
Johnny Tam
Tel: 2358 8556
 Prof George Smoot
Prof George Smoot
 Prof George Smoot (Left) and HKUST President Prof Tony F Chan in discussion
Prof George Smoot (Left) and HKUST President Prof Tony F Chan in discussion
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