Eiichiro Komatsu awarded the Inoue Prize for Science

December 13, 2021
Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU)

Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics Director and Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe Principal Investigator Eiichiro Komatsu has been selected as one of the recipients of this year's Inoue Prize for Science.

The Inoue Prize for Science was established in 1984 by the Inoue Foundation for Science, and presents researchers with a gold medal and some research funding assistance. The foundation recognizes researchers under 50 who have made remarkable achievements in natural and fundamental sciences. A prize giving ceremony will be held on February 4, 2022 for this year's recipients.

Komatsu has made many contributions to his research of the beginning, present, and future of the Universe, by combining astronomical data with the laws of physics. This time, he has been recognized for his work on “Critical tests of theories of the early universe using the cosmic microwave background”.

Inflation is a period of extremely rapid expansion of space that theorists say should have occurred just after the beginning of our Universe. Komatsu has been working as a member of NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) team since 2001, using the cosmic microwave background (CMB) observational data to find evidence of inflation theory.

As a result, they found density fluctuations obeyed a certain probability distribution, which depends on physics of the creation of quantum fluctuations. It meant that these quantum fluctuations lead to density fluctuations in the CMB, shaping the Universe we know today.

On top of this, Komatsu made valuable contributions to the study of primordial gravitational waves. Primordial gravitational waves are believed to have been created quantum mechanically in space time during inflation, and some distinct record of it should be left imprinted in the CMB. Komatsu and his team found the amplitude of gravitational waves were a lot smaller than originally thought. Komatsu's research has helped establish new experiments to study the CMB and inflation theories such as LiteBIRD, a satellite experiment including the Kavli IPMU.

Komatsu said he was grateful to the Inoue Foundation for Science for this recognition of his work and the prize.

“I feel honored and humbled to be recognized among the recipients of this prize. I am grateful to those who nominated me for the prize, the selection committee for their recognition of our work, and everyone who mentored me. We are close to figuring out whether the period of cosmic inflation actually occurred in the early Universe. Theory of inflation was proposed 40 years ago, and one of the proposers, Prof. Katsuhiko Sato, received the 5th Inoue Prize for Science in 1988. Prof. Jun’ichi Yokoyama, who studied the novel aspects of inflation that were not known when theory was proposed originally, received the 29th prize in 2012. Our research follows the path paved by them. This prize encourages us to take the next step towards finding definitive evidence for inflation," he said.

Eiichiro Komatsu Education and Experience
2001 Doctor of Science, Tohoku University
2001 Postdoctoral Research Fellow (WMAP Fellow), Princeton University
2003 Assistant Professor of Astronomy, The University of Texas at Austin
2008 Associate Professor of Astronomy, The University of Texas at Austin
(2008 - 2010 Visiting Scientist, Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe)
2009 - 2012 Director, Texas Cosmology Center, The University of Texas at Austin
2010 - 2012 Professor of Astronomy, The University of Texas at Austin
(2010 - 2017 Visiting Senior Scientist, Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe)
2012 - currently Director, Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics
2017 - currently Principal Investigator, Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe

Related links
Inoue Foundation for Science (in Japanese)
Eiichiro Komatsu's website
Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics

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