Faculty Bulletin Board

Scientist shares in 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

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Edward L. (Ned) Wright
Todd Cheney/UCLA

Edward L. (Ned) Wright

Edward L. (Ned) Wright, a UCLA professor who holds the David Saxon Presidential Chair in Physics, shared the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, which honors major insights into the deepest questions of the universe.

The $3 million physics prize, which was announced Dec. 3, is being shared by the 27-member NASA Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe experimental team. Wright helped develop key data analysis techniques for WMAP. The team’s observations and analyses have provided rigorous measurements of the age, content, geometry and origin of the universe.

Among the unprecedented findings from the probe are that the universe is within 1 percent of 13.75 billion years old, and consists of 22.7 percent dark matter, 72.8 percent dark energy, and only 4.5 percent ordinary matter. The probe’s findings are so precise that its version of the universe is now commonly known as the “Standard Cosmological Model.”

The universe had a period of “Dark Ages,” starting approximately 500,000 years after the Big Bang, and the probe revealed the end of the dark ages — about 200 million years after the Big Bang.

Wright, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Arts and Sciences, is among the most-cited researchers in the field of cosmic microwave background radiation.

Terence Tao, a professor of mathematics who holds the James and Carol Collins Chair in the UCLA College, was one of five inaugural recipients of the Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics.

The Breakthrough Prizes honor important, primarily recent, achievements in the categories of fundamental physics, life sciences and mathematics. The prizes are sponsored by Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Pony Ma, Yuri and Julia Milner and Anne Wojcicki. Committees of previous laureates choose the winners from candidates nominated in a process that’s online and open to the public.

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