Humboldt Research Award goes to Einstein's heir

December 05, 2006

The theoretical physicist Prof. Jiri Bicak (Charles University of Prague) was honoured with a Humboldt Research Award. The internationally renowned relativist will spend several months in Germany next year, conducting research at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena and the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Potsdam.

Prof. Bicak is internationally well known for his research on general relativity and related astrophysical questions. He investigates the properties of black holes and has made important contributions to explaining the formation of black holes by gravitational collapse.

Prof. Jürgen Ehlers, Director Emeritus of the Albert Einstein Institute, is delighted about the award: "We have been working closely with Mr. Bicak for a long time, and I am particularly pleased that the Humboldt Research Award went to him. It will also help to expand our cooperation with the University of Jena and support the field of gravitational physics in Germany. A good example of 'Brain Gain' instead of 'Brain Drain'!"

The physics behind mathematics

By interpreting exact solutions of Einstein's field equations, Bicak succeeds in making visible the physics behind the mathematics of general relativity. He was able to show that gravitational radiation, which could previously only be calculated by means of approximate solutions or numerical methods, is already contained in certain exact solutions of Einstein's equations. This is particularly significant because the equations of general relativity can only be solved explicitly in a few simple cases, and these cases are usually so idealized that it is difficult to draw conclusions about the real existing physics behind them. Prof. Bicak achieves this through comprehensive knowledge of various mathematical methods combined with intuitive physical insights.

It all began in Jena

"The award is not only a great honor for me, but it also reminds me of how it all began," says Jiri Bicak. "It was in Jena, after all, where I first came into contact with the world of relativity 40 years ago! Over the years, this led to regular contacts with the university there and the Albert Einstein Institute in Potsdam, which became a magnet for relativists from all over the world. Now I look forward to further developing Einstein's scientific heritage in theoretical physics, astrophysics and cosmology together with my colleagues".

During his research stay at the Albert Einstein Institute in Potsdam and at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Bicak will continue his work in the above-mentioned fields in cooperation with his colleagues. He will study particles, physical fields and gravitational waves in spacetimes that are of cosmological and astrophysical interest.

The research awards of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation grants up to 100 Humboldt Research Awards to internationally renowned scientists and scholars from abroad. The award ceremony honours the winners' scientific lifetime achievements. The winners are also invited to carry out research projects of their own choice in Germany in cooperation with German colleagues for the duration of six months up to one year. The prizes are endowed with up to 75,000 euros.

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