The , a Type 1 supporting organization operated and supervised by Yale University, has announced the recipients of the , which recognizes theoretical, analytical, conceptual, or observational discoveries leading to fundamental advances in our understanding of the universe.
The $500,000 prize was awarded to Viatcheslav Mukhanov, professor of physics at the in Munich, and Alexei Starobinsky of the in Moscow for their formative contributions to inflationary theory, an essential component for understanding the evolution and structure of the universe. Mukhanov's and Starobinsky's contributions to inflationary cosmology have provided compelling answers to essential cosmological questions and validated a key prediction of Big Bang theory.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Starobinsky used quantum mechanics and general relativity theory to show that the universe could have experienced an extraordinarily rapid expansion in the first moments of its existence. Using the Starobinsky model, Mukhanov and the late G.V. Chibisov discovered that quantum fluctuations could have seeded the present large-scale web-like structure of the universe with galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and super-clusters of galaxies. In 1982, several scientists, including Starobinsky, outlined a theory of quantum fluctuations that was similar to Mukhanov and Chibisov's findings, culminating in a more rigorous theory developed by Mukhanov in 1985. Since then, increasingly precise observations of cosmic microwave background radiation have provided decisive matches for theoretical predictions of how the universe looked after it had been expanding for 380,000 years.