The KTH Great Prize 2015 awarded to Max Tegmark

Physicist and cosmologist Max Tegmark has been named the recipient of this year's Great Prize from KTH Royal Institute of Technology. The Swedish scientist, who is a professor of physics at MIT, follows in the footsteps of prominent scientists such as Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson in presenting cosmology to the mass public in a vivid and memorable way.

Tegmark will receive SEK 1.2 million for his work as both a scientist and a communicator on the subjects of the universe and physics.

"By expanding and developing our perspective of mathematics and the universe, we increase our knowledge of the cosmos," the university's citation reads. "The physicist and cosmologist Max Tegmark combines a solid research career with equal parts courage, ingenuity and creativity, by developing innovative ideas and tools.

"His theories place our planet in a larger and more critical context for the future," the statement concludes.

Tegmark says he never expected to receive such an honour when he started studying at KTH in 1987. "I'm very grateful for the excellent education that KTH gave me in the area of technical physics. It was then that I fell in love with physics, and I still am.

"I look at KTH as Sweden's MIT: a magnet for visionaries who want to create a better future with the help of science," he says.

Aside from his scientific achievements, Tegmark also is an excellent teacher. His ability to explain how the cosmos works in am understandable way has been documented in countless newspapers and magazines, TV broadcasts and radio programs, bringing to mind such popular scientists as Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson. It's no surprise, then, that one of his influences is Sagan.

"Carl Sagan inspired me as a teenager," the 47-year-old Tegmark says. "Neil deGrasse Tyson, I was fortunate to get to know during my postdoc time in Princeton.

"I think that we scientists have an obligation to communicate our findings to those who support us with their tax money, and to the young people who will hopefully become researchers one day."

He also makes a strong case for society to understand cosmology.  "The more powerful the technology we invent, the more we affect our environment and the more important it is that we see the whole picture.

"The climate threat, the threat of nuclear weapons—these more than show that we are dealing with far too little long-term thinking," he says. "Without cosmology, it would be as if humanity suffered from Alzheimer's disease — confused about where we are, where we come from, and where we are going."

Peter Gudmundson, president of KTH, says that he finds Tegmarks efforts impressive.

"Max Tegmark's research has contributed significantly to increasing our understanding of how the universe is built; and his educational achievements are extensive. His theories have received considerable attention, making him one of the world's most cited researchers in his field. Max Tegmark is an excellent example of how far you can go with an engineering degree from KTH Royal Institute of Technology. "

Peter Larsson

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Last changed: Nov 19, 2015