Archive for Jim Peebles

Anomalies in Physical Cosmology

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on August 12, 2022 by telescoper

Just a quick note to mention that there’s an interesting review article on the arXiv by elder statesman of cosmology Jim Peebles with the abstract:

The ΛCDM cosmology passes demanding tests that establish it as a good approximation to reality. The theory is incomplete, of course, and open issues are being examined in active research programs. I offer a review of less widely discussed anomalies that might also point to hints to a still better cosmological theory if more closely examined.

Here is Figure 4 from the paper, which I’ve picked because it is pretty. It shows the distribution of bright (red) and faint (blue) galaxies within 9Mpc of the Milky Way.

My Life in Physical Cosmology – Jim Peebles

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on January 16, 2020 by telescoper

This is very nice, a talk by Nobel Laureate Jim Peebles given at the Oska Klein Centre in Stockholm. Well worth watching if you want to learn about the evolution of the field of physical cosmology over the last 50 years or so.

`How Physical Cosmology Grew’ – The Nobel Lecture of Jim Peebles

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , on December 11, 2019 by telescoper

It seems like yesterday when I heard the news that Jim Peebles had been awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics, but this week the man himself has been in Stockholm receiving the honour amid a number of press engagements and other formalities including the Nobel Lecture, which has now appeared on Youtube and is well worth watching if you’re at all interested in cosmology!


Peebles Princeton Press Conference

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on October 10, 2019 by telescoper

Here I am in the Departure Lounge of Dublin Airport’s Terminal 2 ready for a quick trip to Poundland. To fill in a few minutes before my flight I thought I’d post this video of the press conference held at Princeton University upon the announcement of the award of a Nobel Prize to Jim Peebles. It’s full of interesting things but I particularly liked this quote:

My advice is not to aim for prizes and awards. They will come or they won’t. Don’t judge your career by their number, by the count of prizes. We’re in this for the joy of research, the fascination, the love of science. That is the reward really…

Don’t judge yourself by the awards. Judge yourself by how well you have done, and do your best.

For me that sums up the whole reason for being a physicist. Even those of us who have no chance of winning awards or prizes and whose achievements are at most modest can still feel the joy and the love of science. That is the reward.


A Nobel Prize for Jim Peebles!

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , on October 8, 2019 by telescoper

I’ve just dashed back in excitement to the office from two hours of mandatory Financial Report Training to write a quick post before my 12 o’clock lecture on Astrophysics & Cosmology because of the news about the award of the 2019 Nobel Prize for Physics.

My recent post was half right in the sense that half this year’s prize goes to Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for the discovery of an extrasolar planet. I don’t know either of them personally, but heartiest congratulations to both!

My heart lept with joy, however, to see the other half of the prize go to Jim Peebles (above) for his work on theoretical cosmology. Much of the reason for that is that I’ve had the great honour and pleasure to meet Jim many times over the years. He is not only a truly great scientist but also a extremely nice man whose kindness and generosity is universally recognized. He’s not known as `Gentleman Jim’ for nothing!

The other reason for the excitement is that I was completely taken by surprise by the announcement. I had feared that his chance of winning a Nobel Prize had passed – I argued at the time that Jim should have been awarded a share of the 2006 Nobel Prize because without his amazing pioneering theoretical work the importance of the cosmic microwave background for cosmology and the large-scale structure of the Universe would not have been established so rapidly. As an author of the first paper to provide a theoretical interpretation of the signal detected by Penzias and Wilson, Jim was there right at the start of the modern era of cosmology and his subsequent work constructed the foundations of the theory of structure formation through gravitational instability. I was sad that he didn’t get a share in 2006 for this work, but am absolutely delighted that this has been rectified now!

This was one of the first cosmology books I ever bought. It’s an amazing piece of work that has been essential reading for cosmologists for almost 40 years!

Congratulations to Jim!

Now let me think about what to say to my students about this!

How the Nonbaryonic Dark Matter Theory Grew [CEA]

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on January 24, 2017 by telescoper

Another arXiver post, this time from the great Jim Peebles. Always a skeptic about dark matter, especially cold dark matter, it is the hallmark of a great scientist that he weighs up the evidence as objectively as possible.

This is a long review, but well worth reading for its important insights and historical perspective. I agree that the case for non-baryonic dark matter is compelling, but it is also far from proved and it’s still possible that an alternative, equally or more compelling, theory will be found.


The evidence is that the mass of the universe is dominated by an exotic nonbaryonic form of matter largely draped around the galaxies. It approximates an initially low pressure gas of particles that interact only with gravity, but we know little more than that. Searches for detection thus must follow many difficult paths to a great discovery, what the universe is made of. The nonbaryonic picture grew out of a convergence of evidence and ideas in the early 1980s. Developments two decades later considerably improved the evidence, and advances since then have made the case for nonbaryonic dark matter compelling.

Read this paper on arXiv…

P. Peebles
Mon, 23 Jan 17

Comments: An essay to accompany articles on dark matter detection in Nature Astronomy

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No more ripples?

Posted in Biographical, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on July 27, 2013 by telescoper

Well, that’s the Ripples in the Cosmos meeting in Durham over and done with, and I’m back in Newcastle for a few days before moving on to Edinburgh next week. I’m not sure I’ll be able to blog much over the next few days because my internet connectivity will be a bit limited.

Anyway, the meeting was very exciting, as you can tell from the picture showing me (with the beard) and Brian Schmidt (with the Nobel Prize):


Yesterday it was my job to round off the meeting with some concluding remarks leading into a panel discussion. I have to admit that although the programme for the conference was clearly designed in order to generate provoke discussion, I was a little disappointed that so few people said anything controversial. I’ve long held that there are too many cosmologists willing to believe too much, and this was further evidence that the scepticism that is a necessary part of a healthy science has been replaced by widespread conformity, especially among the young; when I was a lad the students and postdocs were a lot more vocal at meetings than they are now. Perhaps this is characteristic of a change in culture of cosmology? To get a job nowadays it’s virtually essential to climb onto one of the big bandwagon projects, and to keep your place you have to toe the party line, refrain from rocking the boat, not speak out of turn, and avoid making ripples (That’s enough metaphors. Ed).

Anyway, I think there are still a great many things in modern cosmology we don’t understand at all, and I think a few more of the older generation should show the way by questioning things in public. In fact only got asked to do the concluding remarks because Jim Peebles was unable to come to the meeting. Jim’s an immensely distinguished physicist who has probably done more than any other living person to develop the standard cosmology, but he’s also never been afraid to play devil’s advocate. We need more like him, willing to articulate the doubts that too many of us feel the need to suppress.

It’s amazing how much progress we have made in cosmology over the last few decades, but we shouldn’t use that as an excuse to get complacent. Cosmology is about the biggest questions in science. That alone makes it an exciting subject to work in. It’s an adventure. And the last thing you want on an adventure is for the journey to be too comfortable.