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Statements on George F. Smoot Winning Nobel Prize in Physics

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Gov. Schwarzenegger issued the following statement today (Oct. 3) regarding UC Berkeley Professor and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Astrophysicist George F. Smoot sharing in the Nobel Prize for physics:

"I have always said that California has the best of everything - the smartest people, the most beautiful beaches, mountains and deserts, the freshest and tastiest agricultural products and now California has another one of the preeminent physicists in the world - George Smoot.

"George and his fellow scientists peered into the skies to further our understanding of the origins of the universe. His visionary work has helped put us on a path to finding out where we came from and he is an example of how California draws the most talented people to our state. Maria and I congratulate him on his wonderful discovery and award and look forward to many Californians following in his footsteps to further the boundaries of human knowledge and make California and the world a better place to live."

This is UC Berkeley's 20th Nobel Prize.

Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman

I am thrilled to offer my congratulations to John Mather and George Smoot for their outstanding contributions to science, which are being recognized with the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics, said Secretary Bodman.  “It is fitting that the Nobel committee chose to honor the groundbreaking work of two American scientists, who showed us how to look back in time to the very infancy of our universe, so we might better understand how it came to be, and where it is going. They began a scientific journey that we are still on today, one I am sure that will lead to more amazing discoveries in the future.

Under Secretary of Energy, Director of the Office of Science, Ray Orbach

The DOE Office of Science supported Dr. Smoot’s research during the period in which he worked on the COBE experiment, and we continue to support him today.  In addition, one of the principal instruments for the NASA COBE experiment used to make the discoveries was built at Berkeley Lab at facilities maintained by the Office of Science.  This is an example of the scientific excellence that DOE supports.

Berkeley Lab Director Steve Chu

My warmest congratulations go out to George Smoot and John Mather for being awarded the 2006 Prize in Physics for their precision investigation of the cosmic microwave radiation, first discovered by a pair of Bell Labs scientists, Arno Penzias and  Robert Wilson, in 1964. Mather and Smoot led a large team of scientists that showed with the COBE satellite that the radiation is precisely of the form that would be expected as a result of a Big Bang creation of the universe. In a tour-de-force precision measurement, they also showed that the radiation also contained tiny irregularities at the level of one hundred thousandth (1/100,000) of the magnitude of this faint microwave background. These ripples are believed to be the initial fluctuations that allowed the matter in the universe to eventually condense into the stars and galaxies we see today. This is the 11th time the Nobel Prize has been awarded to an employee of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Nine of those awards were for work done at the Berkeley Lab.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau

I am delighted to report that in the pre-dawn hours today the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Professor George Smoot of UC Berkeley's Department of Physics. There are few more exciting moments than this in the life of a university -- I know the entire campus community is enormously proud of George's achievement and joins me in sending him hearty congratulations. George is UC Berkeley's 20th faculty Nobel laureate; 24 Nobelists over the years have been Berkeley alumni, including today's co-recipient, John C. Mather of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and Andrew Z. Fire, who yesterday won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. A cosmologist and astrophysicist with a joint appointment at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, George was honored for leading a team that obtained the first images of the infant universe, confirming the predictions of the Big Bang theory and for observing the cosmic wave background fluctuations which foreshadow the structured universe as we know it today. His work is at the very heart of our understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe, moving cosmology from the realm of theory to experimentation that has given us the data to test those theories. In the finest tradition of Berkeley Nobelists, George is also a dedicated teacher. In addition to working with his graduate students, he currently sponsors undergraduate researchers in his lab and this semester is teaching Physics 7B, the introductory course for science and engineering majors.

University of California President Robert Dynes

My heartfelt congratulations go to Professor Smoot and UC alum John Mather for this incredible recognition of their superb research that supports the Big Bang theory,” said UC President Robert C. Dynes. “The Nobel Prize recognizes groundbreaking research from my fellow physicists that expands our knowledge and understanding of the world and beyond, and dramatically illustrates the creativity, collaboration and innovation that are hallmarks of a great research institution such as the University of California.

UC Berkeley Physics Chair and Berkeley Lab Physicist Marjorie Shapiro

All department chairs think their faculty are exceptional. It's wonderful when the rest of the world tells you that you're right. ... It sends a message that UC Berkeley is a first rate institution for doing research, that we're doing state-of-the-art work in the most exciting areas of physics.

Per Carlson, Head of the Nobel Physics Committee, Sweden

If there were no fluctuations like that, the universe would be very uniform -- no stars, no galaxies, no us. It is one of the greatest discoveries of the century. I would call it the greatest.

Max Tegmark, Cosmologist, MIT

I think the discovery of cosmic microwave fluctuations was as revolutionary for physics as the discovery of DNA was for biology. These fluctuations are our cosmic DNA, the blueprints encoding how the baby universe would develop.

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