Trieste Science Prize Winners 2008

Posted on November 3, 2008  Comments (0)

Trieste Science Prize Winners 2008

Beatriz Barbuy, an eminent Brazilian astrophysicist who has made a major contribution to the study of the evolution of the chemical composition of stars, and Roddam Narasimha, an internationally renowned Indian engineer and physicist whose work in fluid dynamics has increased our understanding of turbulence, have been awarded the 2008 Trieste Science Prize.

Barbuy’s research has shed light on the formation of the Milky Way through studies of its oldest components. She was the first to demonstrate that metal-poor stars in the galactic halo (the faint sphere surrounding the galactic disk) have an overabundance of oxygen, relative to iron. This indicates that the halo was chemically enriched by ‘supernova’ explosions of massive first-generation stars, which may have been 500 times the size of the sun.

Hydrogen and helium were the only elements produced in abundance during the formation of the first generation of stars. All of the heavier elements, which astronomers call ‘metals’, were subsequently produced by stars through nuclear fusion. At the end of a star’s life, some of these elements were recycled into the stellar medium, from which the next generation of stars (with greater ‘metallicity’) was born.

Narasimha’s contributions have extended to aircraft design, monsoon predictions and the prospects of using wind energy in rural India. He has also conducted important work on shock wave structure and turbulent shear flows. He is best known for his research on the transitions between laminar and turbulent flows. ‘Laminar flow’ is the smooth movement of fluid (for example, air or water) in parallel layers or paths (streamlines). Turbulence is the chaotic movement of fluid.

A search for the hidden order in chaos has been a fundamental motif of Narasimha’s work. His path-breaking research includes examinations of the ways in which chaos can arise from ordered motion and the structure and memory of fully turbulent flows.

The prize is awarded to outstanding scientists living and working in the developing world. Winners share a US$100,000 cash award.

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