STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Nobel Prize in Physics awarded for black hole discoveries that revealed the 'darkest secrets of the universe'

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to sci...

Posted: Oct 6, 2020 4:48 PM
Updated: Oct 6, 2020 4:48 PM

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to scientists Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for their discoveries about black holes.

This year's prize was about "the darkest secrets of the universe," said Göran K. Hansson, secretary for the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said at Tuesday's ceremony in Stockholm.

Penrose, a professor at the University of Oxford who worked with the late Stephen Hawking, showed that black holes must be a physical reality -- proving Einstein's general theory of relativity. Genzel and Ghez discovered a supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

"Penrose, Genzel and Ghez together showed us that black holes are awe-inspiring, mathematically sublime, and actually exist," Tom McLeish, professor of natural philosophy at the University of York, told the Science Media Centre in London.

Fourth woman to win

Ghez, born in New York City and a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, is only the fourth woman to win a Nobel physics prize. It was awarded to a woman for the first time in 55 years in 2018, when Donna Strickland won for groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics.

"I think today I feel more passionate about the teaching side of my job than I have ever," Ghez said after the announcement. "Because it's so important to convince the younger generation that their ability to question, and their ability to think, is just crucial to the future of the world."

"I'm thrilled to receive the prize and I take very seriously the responsibility associated with being, as you said the fourth woman to win the Nobel Prize. I hope I can inspire other young women in the field," Ghez added. "It's a field that has so many pleasures, and if you are passionate about the science, there's so much that can be done."

Marie Curie, the only woman to have been honored twice by the Nobel committee, won the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics and the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Maria Goeppert Mayer was the only other woman to win the physics prize, in 1963 for discoveries concerning nuclear shell structure.

Not 'science fiction'

Penrose, born in Colchester in England, worked with fellow physicist Hawking to merge Einstein's theory of relativity with quantum theory to suggest that space and time would begin with the Big Bang and end in black holes.

"The Nobel legacy stipends that the committee cannot award posthumously. Professor Hawking's contributions are mentioned in the Nobel's scientific backgrounder in both the Penrose and Genzel-Ghez sections, giving a 'nod' to the British physicist," David Pendlebury, an analyst at Clarivate, which compiles an annual list of Nobel prize contenders based on research citations, told CNN.

"I can't tell you how delighted I am that Roger Penrose has been recognized with a Nobel Prize. For many outside of physics he has been seen as being in the shadow of his long-time collaborator, the late Stephen Hawking," added Jim Al-Khalili, a professor of physics at the University of Surrey.

"But while Einstein's general theory of relativity predicts the existence of black holes, Einstein didn't himself believe they really existed. Penrose was the first to prove mathematically, in 1965, that they are a natural consequence of relativity theory and not just science fiction," he told the Science Media Centre.

Genzel, born in Bad Homburg vor der Höhe, Germany, is director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany and a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Along with Ghez, he discovered that an invisible and extremely heavy object -- about the size of 4 million suns -- governs the orbits of stars at the center of our galaxy. A supermassive black hole is the only currently known explanation.

Last year's Nobel physics prize was also for cosmology, which Bengt Gustafsson, a Swedish astronomer and member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said reflected the richness of the field.

"In those days, when I started, black holes were a formal solution to Einstein's equations... we didn't believe that it had any physical real correspondence. Penrose, in particular, showed that they can exist," Gustafsson, who is in his 70s, told CNN.

"We don't see the black holes directly, we see the effects of them and they are fantastic. They are the most brilliant objects in space."

The three Laureates share this year's prize -- 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.1 million) -- for their discoveries about "one of the most exotic phenomena in the universe," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

This year's Nobel Prize in Medicine was jointly awarded to the US-UK trio of Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice on Monday for the discovery of hepatitis C virus, which led to the development of tests and treatments.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry will be announced on Wednesday, followed by the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday, the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday and the Prize in Economic Sciences next Monday.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 144544

Reported Deaths: 3729
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto963299
Hinds9584195
Harrison6848109
Jackson6124118
Rankin528598
Lee484295
Madison4633105
Forrest368186
Jones345287
Lauderdale3350143
Lafayette315049
Washington3097107
Lamar281849
Oktibbeha239261
Bolivar239083
Lowndes228863
Neshoba2164115
Panola211749
Marshall208350
Leflore200890
Pontotoc194728
Monroe190277
Sunflower189755
Lincoln186165
Warren172257
Tate164251
Union160925
Pike160458
Copiah158940
Yazoo151239
Scott150229
Itawamba147634
Coahoma147443
Pearl River144467
Simpson144253
Alcorn143925
Prentiss140429
Grenada136945
Adams136548
Leake131843
Holmes124961
George122224
Tippah121530
Covington117636
Winston116624
Wayne115823
Hancock114139
Marion111046
Attala107833
Tishomingo106142
Newton102729
Chickasaw102432
Tallahatchie95527
Clarke88553
Clay87027
Jasper81122
Walthall75028
Stone72414
Montgomery71925
Calhoun71613
Carroll70614
Lawrence70214
Yalobusha69427
Noxubee69217
Smith68816
Perry65225
Tunica59619
Greene58422
Claiborne57416
Jefferson Davis54217
Humphreys52618
Amite51214
Benton48417
Quitman4796
Webster42014
Kemper40917
Wilkinson38622
Jefferson33811
Franklin3235
Choctaw3077
Sharkey30617
Issaquena1114
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 236865

Reported Deaths: 3472
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson31043491
Mobile19446360
Tuscaloosa12684150
Madison12528146
Montgomery12122235
Shelby992276
Baldwin837684
Lee759765
Morgan626247
Calhoun6049113
Etowah600564
Marshall596153
Houston510838
DeKalb469635
Cullman421136
Limestone408844
St. Clair403955
Elmore398961
Lauderdale387253
Walker356199
Talladega339044
Jackson302524
Colbert297641
Blount282236
Autauga266139
Franklin246233
Coffee236615
Dale228454
Dallas222331
Russell21923
Chilton218537
Covington215933
Escambia196931
Tallapoosa171790
Chambers171448
Pike156014
Clarke155319
Marion135535
Winston126623
Lawrence123936
Geneva11848
Pickens117618
Marengo117424
Barbour116710
Bibb115717
Butler114341
Randolph100321
Cherokee99624
Hale93231
Washington89918
Clay89623
Fayette86216
Henry8436
Lowndes78929
Monroe77911
Cleburne75614
Macon71720
Crenshaw70330
Bullock69019
Conecuh68214
Perry6726
Lamar6337
Wilcox62818
Sumter56222
Choctaw41813
Greene41317
Coosa3144
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Overcast
61° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 61°
Columbus
Overcast
59° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 59°
Oxford
Broken Clouds
61° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 61°
Starkville
Overcast
57° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 57°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather