Nobel laureate Adam Riess to give Gamow Memorial Lecture at CU-Boulder March 22

Published: March 14, 2012

Johns Hopkins University Professor Adam Riess, who shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics for uncovering evidence that the universe is expanding, will give the 2012 George Gamow Memorial Lecture at the University of Colorado Boulder on Thursday, March 22.

Free and open to the public, the talk is titled “Supernovae and the Discovery of the Accelerating Universe.”  The talk will be held at 7:30 p.m. in Macky Auditorium and is intended for a general audience.

Riess, a professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University, also is a scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope.

He shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics with Brian Schmidt of Australian National University in Weston Creek, Australia, and Saul Perlmutter of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. In 1998, a team led by Riess and Schmidt found evidence for the expansion of the universe by analyzing light from distant supernovas, as did Perlmutter, who led a second independent study.

The Nobel winners found the light emitted by targeted, distant supernovas was weaker than expected, a sign that the universe was expanding at an accelerating rate. “For almost a century the universe has been known to be expanding as a consequence of the Big Bang about 14 billion years ago,” read the Nobel citation. “However, the discovery that this expansion is accelerating is astounding. If the expansion will continue to speed up, the universe will end in ice.”

The $1 million Shaw Prize in Astronomy was awarded to Riess, Schmidt and Perlmutter in 2004 for their universe expansion research. The findings have essentially settled one of the biggest questions in science -- the ultimate fate of the universe. It is now believed that billions of years from now as galaxies continue to pull apart from one another, the ever-enlarging universe will turn black and cold.

Riess earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate in astrophysics from Harvard University. As a research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1996 to 1999, Riess and his colleagues conducted the research that was to win him a share of the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics.

Riess has taught at Johns Hopkins since 2006. He won a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” in 2008, which carried a cash prize of $500,000.

The George Gamow Memorial Lecture Series began in 1971 and honors the late CU-Boulder physics professor who was pivotal in developing the “Big Bang” theory of the creation of the universe. Gamow also was recognized for his many books popularizing science for nonscientific audiences.

For more information about the lecture series visit

Nancy Miller, 303-579-7468
Jim Scott, CU media relations, 303-492-3114

Nobel laureate Adam Riess (Photo courtesy Johns Hopkins University)