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    The opening lecture of Professor Peebles at the World Copernican Congress

    Nicolaus Copernicus University’s Aula hosted a special ceremony on 19 February. A prominent guest of the World Copernican Congress, Prof. Phillip James Edwin Peebles officially opened the ceremony on the anniversary of Nicolaus Copernicus’ birth and, at the same time, Nicolaus Copernicus University Day.

    Prof. Peebles is a Canadian-American physicist, cosmologist, astrophysicist and astronomer, one of the pioneers of the theory of the formation of cosmic structures and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics. He gave lectures at the world’s leading universities, e.g. Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, or at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as well as at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

    He has received many awards for his scientific achievements, in particular the Eddington Medal and Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Heineman Award of the American Astronomical Society, the Peter Gruber Foundation's Cosmology Award, the Harvey Award of the Israeli Technion Institute of Technology, the Crafoord Award and the Dirac Medal. In 2019, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.
    Prof. Peebles holds an honorary doctorate in National University of Cordoba and the University of British Columbia. (PAP)

    “The greatest discoveries are unexpected.”

    The development of science answers some questions, but also raises new ones. It is worth looking for topics that have escaped general attention and bearing in mind that unexpected progress sometimes changes plans.”,

    advised subsequent generations of scientists, Nobel Prize winner Prof. Phillip James Edwin Peebles at the opening of the World Copernican Congress.

    In his lecture, he pointed out that Nicolaus Copernicus relied on existing knowledge and developed it, and this is the way in which science is developing today. In his theory, Copernicus indicated a more rational arrangement of planets in the cosmos than the previously dominant view. Another very important theory was Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Both theories made predictions that could be extensively tested, and after successfully undergoing this process, eventually became important pieces of our knowledge.

    He also referred to the fact that some of the discoveries were made by people who changed their place of residence, moved from another country. As he recalled, he himself was an “alien” from Canada working in the USA. He studied the consequences of a universe expanding from a hot, dense state. The same problem was studied by Yakov Zelowicz, who was born in Minsk and ended up in Russia. Zeldowicz obtained very similar results because both (Peebles and Zeldowicz) were based on the laws of physics.

    He then briefly recounted some of his past research and the history of the search and discovery of the microwave background radiation.

    The Nobel laureate also presented four tips/thoughts that may be useful for the next generations of scientists.

    First, he noticed that he was doing research that had little chance of making a quick profit, but his superiors at the university didn’t ask him to do something more practical.

    Secondly, he stressed that research in the natural sciences requires a high degree of independence and can lead to industrial applications in various ways, sometimes in unexpected ways. As an example indicated CCD detectors, which were being developed for use in telephones for video calls. When they were created, society was not yet ready for such a revolution in telephone conversations. But astronomers became interested in CCD detectors because they recorded light better than photographic film. This led to a breakthrough in astronomy and many discoveries.

    As the third lesson, the scientist pointed out that when you have a specific problem to solve, it is important to plan ahead, bearing in mind, however, that unexpected progress can occur that will change plans. He also emphasized that it is worth looking for topics that have escaped general attention or have gone unnoticed at all.

    The Nobel Prize winner’s fourth piece of advice for scientists emphasized the fact that the development of science answers certain questions, but also raises new ones. For example, pointed out Prof. Peebles – Copernicus formulated the heliocentric theory, but Johannes Kepler corrected it and wondered about the forces that make the planets move. Isaac Newton asked the same question as Kepler and gave a better answer (gravitational pull). Newton’s theory worked well, but Albert Einstein showed that general relativity works even better.

    Prof. Peebles pointed out that Poles deeply value their freedom to shape their culture as they wish.

    “This is the source of a proud history of great, creative advances by Polish scientists and artists. Poland is well prepared for new advances in gravitational wave astronomy, the search for fundamental laws of physics, such as the question of what is responsible for dark matter and dark energy, both at the Nicolaus Copernicus University and elsewhere in Poland.”,

    said Prof. Peebles.

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