Physicist Wins $100,000 Prize for Discovering Fermi Bubbles

Learning how dark matter works and what it is made of has been a major challenge for astrophysicists. Tracey Slatyer, an MIT physicist, engaged in an ambitious journey for understanding better the nature of dark matter, the structure that accounts for 85% of the Universe’s ‘stuff’ and about a quarter of its total mass–energy density.

But when it comes to exploring the heavens, you know how things usually go: scientists stumble upon other exciting stuff that captures their attention. The same thing happened to Tracey Slatyer: she’s a co-discoverer of the so-called ‘Fermi Bubbles’, which are aftershocks of a black hole outburst from millions of years ago.

$100,000 New Horizons Prize in Physics

Tracey Slatyer is richer with $100,000 after her enormous scientific contributions. The prize money is donated by the following tech billionaires: Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan, Yuri Milner, Julia Milner, Jack Ma, and Pony Ma. Slatyer got her Ph.D. in 2010 and was hired three years later at MIT.

The New Horizons award was given by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation “For major contributions to particle astrophysics, from models of dark matter to the discovery of the “Fermi Bubbles.”

Scientists weren’t yet able to directly detect dark matter, and physicist Tracey Slatyer has something to say for that:

If it interacts with the other forces we know about — like electromagnetism, or the weak force and strong force in atomic nuclei — it does so pretty weakly,

By comparison, normal matter, as the one we’re interacting with every day, is far less in the Universe than dark matter – only about 5% compared to 85%.

Trying to explain how normal matter was born is complicated enough – whether scientists like to admit it or not, the Big Bang Theory has plenty of shortcomings. Finding out for sure how dark matter was born is another major challenge in science.

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