Young British professor has won a £23,500 prize for improving Einstein’s theory of general relativity

A young British professor has won a £23,500 prize for improving the theory of general relativity, by Albert Einstein.

Gustav Holzegel, from Imperial University, won the coveted annual Blavatnik Award for working out what happens when a black hole is shaken, a fiendish black hole problem derived from Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Solutions to the ‘black hole stability conjecture’ have eluded physicists for decades but his research has now “broken its back”.

He said he was “delighted” to win the only unrestricted cash prise for young scientists and engineers less than 42-years-old in the UK.

Professor Holzegel, from the Department of Mathematics at Imperial, won the monies as a finalist for the award.

His citation for The Blavatnik Awards stated that “Professor Holzegel has pushed the frontiers of our understanding of the universe as outlined by the general relativity theory.”

Prof Holzegel, of London, who previously studied at University of Cambridge, said: “I am delighted to receive this prize and I would like to thank my collaborators without whom this would not have been possible.”

His work goes a long way to answer the question of what would happen after a massive black hole is shaken or ‘perturbed’ – known as the ‘black hole stability conjecture’.

It predicts that the black hole would eventually settle down into a stable form much like the one it began in, in the same way that a block of jelly will return to its original shape after being prodded.

But this remained unproven for many decades even for the simplest black hole – one that doesn’t spin, is perfectly spherical and has no electrical charge.

Prof Holzegel and his collaborators proved a version of the conjecture for those black holes in 2016.

His new equations – which apply to any kind of black hole – have allowed experts to make huge strides in finding a compete solutions to the problem.

Prof Holzegel has also worked in other areas of the theory of general relativity, including a series of papers on Einstein’s field equations that have advanced string theory and particle physics.

Noted scientist Sir Leonard Blavatnik is founder and Chairman of Access Industries, and head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

He said: “Recognising and encouraging the brilliant talent of the UK’s best young scientists through the Blavatnik Awards is our honour.

“By supporting young scientists as they embark on their careers, we create a positive impact on the country’s future prosperity, accelerating scientific discovery and innovation that mankind can benefit from, and encouraging others to follow their path.”

The 2019 Blavatnik Awards Laureates and Finalists in the UK will be honoured at ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on March 6.

The following day the honourees will present their research in a public symposium entitled Cure, Create, Innovate: 9 Young Scientists Transforming Our World to be held at the Science Museum, London on 7 March 2019.

By Berny Torre

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