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Dr. Peebles’s Universe: Canadian-born cosmologist James Peebles celebrates Nobel physics prize win

Professor James Peebles

For many science enthusiasts, James Peebles made his most memorable debut while riding his bicycle across their television screens during a 1978 PBS documentary about the Big Bang theory.

Now 84, the Princeton University professor from St. Boniface, Man., is back in the public eye, this time as a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics for his many contributions to humanity’s understanding of the universe.

“It was never a plan of great discovery,” the tall, soft-spoken cosmologist said over the phone during a news conference after the prize was announced. “These things just happen.”

On Tuesday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm named Dr. Peebles a winner of one half of this year’s $1.2-million physics prize. The other half was awarded to Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, who launched a new era in the search for other worlds.

Dr. Peebles spent his childhood in small towns orbiting Second World War-era Winnipeg. Always curious about how things worked, he recalled that as a youngster he once threw a tantrum, “because I wasn’t allowed to put together the coffee percolator.”

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