|Born||Adam Guy Riess
December 16, 1969
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Institutions||Johns Hopkins University / Space Telescope Science Institute|
|Alma mater||Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
University of California, Berkeley
|Known for||Accelerating universe / Dark energy|
|Notable awards||Helen B. Warner Prize for Astronomy (2002)
Shaw Prize in Astronomy (2006)
Nobel Prize in Physics (2011)
Albert Einstein Medal (2011)
|Spouse||Nancy Joy Schondorf (m. 1998)|
We know there is gravity because apples fall from trees. We can observe gravity in daily life. If we could throw an apple to the edge of the universe, we would observe it accelerating.
Dark energy is incredibly strange, but actually it makes sense to me that it went unnoticed, because dark energy has no effect on daily life, or even inside our solar system.
We've known for a long time that the universe is expanding. But about 15 years ago, my colleagues and I discovered that it is expanding faster and faster. That is, the universe is accelerating, and that was not expected, but it is now attributed to this mysterious stuff called dark energy which seems to make up about 70 percent of the universe.
One of the most exciting things about dark energy is that it seems to live at the very nexus of two of our most successful theories of physics: quantum mechanics, which explains the physics of the small, and Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, which explains the physics of the large, including gravity.
We're really just the frosting on a cake and we don't know what's inside the cake.
Until the 1990s, there were few reliable observations about movement at the scale of the entire universe, which is the only scale dark energy effects. So dark energy could not be seen until we could measure things very, very far away.
It's everywhere, really. It's between the galaxies. It is in this room. We believe that everywhere that you have space, empty space, that you cannot avoid having some of this dark energy.
We look at distant exploding stars called supernovae, and we've developed techniques to measure how far away they are and how fast they're moving away from us.
Your chemistry high school teacher lied to you when they told you that there was such a thing as a vacuum, that you could take space and move every particle out of it.
Einstein wrestled with a problem back before we even knew the universe was expanding, and he was looking for a way to keep the universe from collapsing. And so he discovered, in his theory of gravity, something like this dark energy – he called it a cosmological constant – could play this role, pushing things away.
I think the mystery of what's out there in the universe is just very compelling.
During my time at Watchung Hills Regional High School, I was fortunate to have a number of teachers who inspired me and filled me with enthusiasm for learning.