Science

UNSW Physics leads from Morgan Freeman’s Wormhole to the Eureka Prize

Friday, 7 September, 2012
Sarah Terkes

Hosted by Morgan Freeman, the documentary series Through the Wormhole explores the most radical theories and the greatest mysteries that have confounded scientific minds for centuries.

The series brings together the brightest minds from cutting-edge fields such as Astrophysics, Astrobiology, Neuroscience, Nanochemistry and Quantum Mechanics to discuss ideas like String Theory, Time Travel, the Existence of Aliens and the possibility of Life after Death. The aim of Through the Wormhole is to share the latest discoveries in Science while trying to solve the mysteries of the Universe.

In 2011, UNSW Physics Professor John Webb appeared in the episode Speed of Light.

In the episode, John shares his extraordinary discovery that electromagnetism - one of the four forces of physics thought to be constant throughout space and time – may not actually be constant across the cosmos.

By probing the physics of 300 distant galaxies, John and his team found that the strength of electromagnetism appeared to drift gradually from one side of the universe to another. This startling discovery challenges the conventional view that the universe is homogenous and measurable without variation in any direction, bringing into question what was accepted to be a fundamental law of physics - creating profound implications for Einstein's theory of relativity and the science of physics itself. The discovery also implies the possibility of our universe being much larger than what we are able to observe.

This pioneering research, which has generated a considerable amount of new research internationally and sparked widespread interest in pure science, was undertaken by Professor John Webb, Professor Victor Flambaum, Dr Julian King and Dr Julian Berengut from the School of Physics at the University of New South Wales, and Associate Professor Michael Murphy from the Centre of Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne University of Technology.

Accolades and Awards

For their work, the team was awarded the 2012 Eureka Prize for Scientific Research.

Through the Wormhole has now been nominated for a 2012 News and Documentary Emmy Award for Outstanding Science and Technology Programming.

Morgan Freeman with John Webb

Morgan Freeman recently hosted a party to celebrate the Emmy Nomination and also the Mars Rover Curiosity landing, and John Webb was invited along to celebrate (see left).

 

You can view more clips of the series, and the Speed of Light episode, on the Discovery Channel website.

 

John Webb is a Professor of Astrophysics in the School of Physics at UNSW.