Nobel season is always cool. I sit by my phone and wait... But seriously, I find it fascinating to learn what scientific discoveries the Nobel committee thinks are really, really important. Most of the time, I've never heard of them. And when the physics prizes happen, I'm always glad to have NPR's David Kestenbaum explain them. He has a piece on tonight, talking to both winners of this year's prize, John Mather of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and George Smoot from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab at U.C. Berkeley. Their discoveries surrounding evidence for the Big Bang apparently completely changed cosmology — the study of the origins of the universe.
From the piece, a bit of David and Mike Turner, a cosmologist from the University of Chicago:
Kestenbaum: And Turner says the COBE project proved that yes — the huge questions about the universe, could actually be answered. Cosmology was science. Not just something someone scribbled on a blackboard.
Turner: The great Russian physicist Lev Landau said "cosmologists: often in error, never in doubt" and when COBE came along I think that just turned it around. The words "precision cosmology" are not considered to be an oxymoron. Not only did it enable all kinds of science. I think it got us respect.