Archive for Simon White

R.I.P. Richard Bower

Posted in Biographical, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on January 10, 2023 by telescoper

I was shocked and saddened this weekend to hear of the death from cancer of Professor Richard Bower of Durham University. Richard was a leading light in the Institute for Computational Cosmology (ICC) at Durham, though his research interests spanned observational and theoretical studies of galaxy and cluster formation as well as numerical studies. 

I heard the sad news via social media and there have many tributes to and personal reminiscences of Richard have been circulated from friends, colleagues and former students, including this lovely one by Josh Borrow. I’m sure there will be official obituaries in due course that do justice to Richards personality and achievements in teaching and research; I’ll add links when I see them.

If I can add a personal note, I only worked on one project with Richard, about thirty years ago while I was still at Queen Mary & Westfield College in London. Doing the project was tremendous fun – so much so that the paper we ended up writing bears little relation to what we thought it would be like when we started. We were both young then – I think Richard was about a year younger than me – and both had a tendency to fly off at tangents, but fortunately we were working with two responsible adults (Carlos Frenk and Simon White) who kept us in order. I think the paper we wrote is a nice one, but the real point is that the whole experience was so enjoyable that it was not only formative experience for me from an intellectual point of view but also left me with very fond memories. Whenever we met subsequently, which happened fairly frequently and conferences and on panels and the like, we always talked about what a great time that was. It’s hard to accept we’ll never have that conversation again.

I send heartfelt condolences to Richard’s family, friends and colleagues, both past and present, and in Durham and elsewhere. was an irrepressible and irreplaceable character who will be greatly missed by the entire cosmological community.

Rest in peace, Richard Bower.

The Shaw Prize goes to Simon White

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on May 23, 2017 by telescoper

MPI Astro Physik – Prof .Simon White

To happier things. I was delighted to see just now that Simon White (above) has won this year’s Shaw Prize for Astronomy. The prize was awarded..

for his contributions to understanding structure formation in the Universe. With powerful numerical simulations he has shown how small density fluctuations in the early Universe develop into galaxies and other nonlinear structures, strongly supporting a cosmology with a flat geometry, and dominated by dark matter and a cosmological constant.

The citation seems a bit strange to me because Simon’s contributions to astronomy and cosmology are many and varied, but it’s in any case an extremely well-justified award. In a field filled with very many very clever people, Simon is definitely one of the cleverest!

The announcement of this awarded reminded me that I was one of the co-authors of a paper with Simon White, but looking it up I realized that was way back in 1993! Where does the time go?

Anyway, hearty congratulations to Simon! I think it’s his round…


Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , on June 2, 2011 by telescoper

Just a quickie this fine summer morning to pass on the news – for those of you who haven’t heard yet – that this year’s Gruber Prize for Cosmology has been awarded to Marc Davis (Berkeley, USA), George Efstathiou (Cambridge, UK), Carlos Frenk (Durham, UK) and Simon White (Garching, Germany). This prestigious award is given for their pioneering work on the Cold Dark Matter model of structure formation, which included some of the first large-scale N-body computer simulations. The “Gang of Four” produced a number of papers during the 1980s that established the idea that galaxies form by hierarchical clustering from small initial fluctuations in a matter distribution dominated by massive collisionless non-baryonic particles, the most famous of their papers being pretty universally referred to as DEFW.

In fact, if you’ll forgive me going on a trip down memory lane, that paper, published in 1985, was one of the first papers I read when I started my research degree the same year at Sussex. It was back in the days when everyone seemed to use a VAX for big computing jobs and the simulations presented in that paper involved a mere 323 = 32768 particles. You could probably run that kind of simulation on a mobile phone these days!

This early work on Cold Dark Matter wasn’t the final word, of course. Subsequent observational evidence for an accelerating Universe resulting in our standard cosmological model being modifiel to include an additional (large) component of dark energy in addition to dark matter. Nevertheless, the core ideas presented by DEFW established the basic foundations of structure formation upon which the current standard model is built.

Incidentally, you can read an interesting account of the discovery of the accelerating universe here; a cosmologist by the name of “George F. Stathew” plays a prominent role in that piece and it’s curious I’ve never heard of him before now.

Each of the four winners gets a share of the $500000 Gruber Prize, i.e. in “normalized” terms, they get $125000 each. Why is it so controversial to suggest dividing citation counts the same way? The DEFW paper has about 1500 citations according to ADS, so I think it’s quite reasonable to award the authors 370-odd each towards their respective h-indices. That’s still a pretty good result by any bibliometric standard!

The four also get a Gold Medal each to wear at parties, although by my previous logic they should have to share one between them. Perhaps George might consider donating his to Arsenal Football Club, as their trophy cabinet is looking rather empty these days?

None of the winners are Australian undergraduates, so this award probably won’t be considered newsworthy by the mass media. Believe it or not, however, the Gruber Prize is held in even higher regard by cosmologists than the Templeton Prize, so I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate them myself for their thoroughly well-deserved honour!