2019 Dirac Medal Awarded to Distinguished Visiting Professor Rashid Sunyaev

Rashid Sunyaev, Maureen and John Hendricks Distinguished Visiting Professor in the School of Natural Sciences, has received the 2019 Dirac Medal along with Viatcheslav Mukhanov, a former Member (2002) in the School now Cosmology Chair at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and Alexei Starobinsky, Principal Researcher at the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics.

The International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), cites the three physicists for their profound impact on modern cosmology, in particular their important contributions to the understanding of the early universe in the context of inflationary cosmology and to the physics of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) “with experimentally tested implications that have helped to transform cosmology into a precision scientific discipline by combining microscopic physics with the large-scale structure of the universe.”

Sunyaev, together with Yakov Zeldovich, predicted in 1970 the existence of acoustic peaks in the CMB. They also studied cosmological recombination, the surface of last scattering, and the black-body photosphere of the universe. They predicted what has become known as the Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect, a decrease in brightness of the CMB in the direction of rich clusters of galaxies, making it possible to use clusters of galaxies as a powerful tool of observational cosmology. Most recently, Sunyaev oversaw the launch of the SRG spacecraft to create a complete X-Ray map of the observable universe. He serves as the Scientific Head of the project in Russia, leading scientific analysis and operation planning.

Mukhanov, in collaboration with Gennady Chibisov, discovered in 1981 the mechanism for the generation of scalar perturbations of the spacetime metric in a model of cosmological inflation proposed by Starobinsky. In 1985, he further developed a rigorous formalism to describe density perturbations in many inflationary models.

Starobinsky was one of the first developers of the cosmic inflation theory in the late 1970s. In 1979, he predicted gravity waves from a period of de Sitter-like evolution in the early universe and later proposed a version of cosmological inflation that is now described in terms of an extra curvature square term in the Einstein action. He wrote one of the first articles to compute density perturbations in slow-roll inflation and developed the formalism of stochastic inflation.

First awarded in 1985, ICTP’s Dirac Medal is given in honor of P.A.M. Dirac, one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century and frequent Member of the Institute. It is awarded every year on Dirac’s birthday, August 8, to scientists who have made significant contributions to theoretical physics. Recipients will receive a cash award and medal and will present a lecture at the ICTP in Trieste, Italy, at an official ceremony later in the year. Other Institute scholars who have received the award include Nathan Seiberg, Juan Maldacena, Stephen Adler, Tullio Regge, Frank Wilczek, Edward Witten and former Director Peter Goddard.

Read more about the announcement from ICTP.


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