A Nobel prize in Anzère
«I spent my childhood in Alaska where snowstorms like today are commonplace. So when I was about your age, I wanted to study meteorology,» said Brian Schmidt to fifteen teenagers from Ayent who came to meet him on the sidelines of the General Assembly of the NCCR Planets. The American astronomer finally opted for astronomy, happily since in 2011 he received the Nobel Prize in Physics with his colleagues Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe.
Brian Schmidt is relaxed, Ayent cycle students feel it, his speech is simple and as clear as his English. The accelerating expansion of the universe becomes easy to understand. Explaining why basic research is important, the Nobel Prize winner tells the pupils: «We do it because it is interesting, but we pay for it because it is useful.» As a compelling example he tells the story of his Australian colleagues who went out to look for Stephen Hawking’s evaporating black holes. «The process they invented is called WiFi – Australia’s most valuable invention.»
«How do we make a discovery?» An issue which, although in other forms, often returns. «You must be in the right place at the right time,» assures Brian Schmidt, «and you know, it’s easy to be good in your job when it interests you,» he adds with a modesty that characterizes all his speech. His advice to the young generation: «You have to be persistent, but you need to know when you are banging your head against a brick wall.»
Brian Schmidt explains further that the Nobel Prize has quite changed his schedule. He travels extensively to give lectures, to participate in discussions (like that of Anzère with young people) or to share his experience. Brian Schmidt with Michel Mayor, is indeed a member of the «advisory board» of PlanetS. «I have much less time to do astronomy,» he admits, «but I have much more weight towards politicians and decision makers,» he added citing his interview with President Barack Obama. «But you know, I am the same,» smiled Brian Schmidt, «I make my bed every morning and give food to my dog every day.»
«It was exciting,» exclaims a pupil with his eyes still full of stars, «I have understood everything!» «Super» adds one of his classmates, «but I could never do that, too long and too complicated.» However, everyone wanted to take «selfies» with Brian Schmidt, «it’s not every day that we have a Nobel prize in Anzère» exclaims one student with a smartphone in his hand.
Rhône FM was one of the media that reported on the visit of Brian Schmidt in Anzère.