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Perimeter researchers earn prestigious cosmology prizes


Jan. 6, 2016 (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) – For the second consecutive year, Perimeter Institute researchers have taken both first and third prizes in the prestigious Buchalter Cosmology Prize competition.

Flavio Mercati, a postdoctoral researcher and Templeton Frontiers Fellow at Perimeter, along with collaborators Julian Barbour and Tim Koslowski (University of New Brunswick), earned first prize for their work on the arrow of time. In the winning paper, titled "Identification of a Gravitational Arrow of Time (arXiv: 1409.0917)," they argue that the flow of time from past to future can be understood in terms complexity, rather than entropy (as held in the prevailing "past hypothesis").

"We realized that there is a possible explanation for the arrow of time that doesn't need special conditions for the origin of the universe," explained Mercati. "The answer is just sitting in gravity itself."

The judging committee recognized the work as "an insightful step towards showing that an arrow of time is a natural expectation in cosmology, rather than a feature that requires significant fine-tuning as suggested by current theories."

Niayesh Afshordi, a Faculty member at Perimeter and the University of Waterloo, along with Elliot Nelson, a postdoctoral researcher at Perimeter, won third prize for a paper that explores a new intersection between particle physics and cosmology.

The winning paper, titled "Cosmological Non-Constant Problem: Cosmological bounds on TeV-scale physics and beyond (arXiv: 1504.00012)," was judged to be "an intriguing proposition that the Planck scale of quantum gravity may soon be accessible by particle accelerators." It is an important insight that Afshordi and Nelson reached by studying quantum fluctuations in the vacuum energy.

"We are very proud of this research, and have high hopes that it will open exciting new pathways for discovery," says Afshordi. "Being recognized by the Buchalter Cosmology Prize is an honour."

Last year, Perimeter's Lee Smolin shared first place in the inaugural Buchalter Cosmology Prize with Marina Cortes of the University of Edinburgh for their work on causality and time, while third prize was shared by two Perimeter researchers, Luis Lehner and Matthew Johnson (jointly appointed with York University), for their work simulating collisions of bubble universes.



Perimeter Institute is the world's largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today's theoretical physics is tomorrow's technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement.


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