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Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Page: 11728

Mr FRYDENBERG (Kooyong) (11:57): I rise to congratulate Professor Brian Schmidt, a joint winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.    The Royal Swedish Academy of Science has awarded Saul Perlmutter, Adam Riess and Professor Schmidt this distinguished prize for their evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. It was Richard Feynman, the winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics, who said: 'If I could explain it to the average person, it wouldn't have been worth the Nobel Prize.' So I do not think I, as a non-scientific parliamentarian, will have great success in explaining the basis of this award. However, I would like to try.

In 1994, working at the Australian National University Mount Stromlo Observatory here in the Australian Capital Territory, Professor Brian Schmidt and other members of the High-z Supernova Search Team at observatories around the world started measuring the rate of expansion of the universe. They expected to find that the universe is slowing down, but by 1998 they were convinced their first three years of data showed the opposite: the universe is speeding up.    This finding has had a profound impact on our understanding of the universe and its ultimate fate and is a reminder of the seriousness and significance of the work that astronomers, physicists, astrophysicists and cosmologists—indeed, all scientists—do.

Professor Schmidt was born in the United States in 1967. He developed his love of science as a young boy, watching his dad work on his PhD in biology in his lab, and went on to study physics and astronomy at the University of Arizona and his masters and doctorate at Harvard University. Professor Schmidt relocated to Australia with his wife, Jenny, in 1994. He still lives here in Canberra and is now an Australian Research Council Fellow and an astrophysicist at the Australian National University Mount Stromlo Observatory. He is also an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and a grape grower and winemaker who tweets under the name CosmicPinot.

Professor Schmidt is the 12th Australian to be awarded a Nobel Prize and the second to win it in physics, the other winner being Sir William Lawrence Bragg, who shared the 1915 prize with his father, Sir William Henry Bragg. He joins the ranks of fellow Australian Nobel Prize winners, including Sir Howard Florey, Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet, Peter Doherty and Barry Marshall, all pioneers of medical science, and some giants of 20th century physics, including Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrodinger, Paul Dirac, James Chadwick and Enrico Fermi.

On behalf of a grateful nation, I congratulate Professor Schmidt on being a joint winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, an incredible achievement of which we are all very proud.