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Filipina Reinabelle Reyes Proves Einstein Right
Think of Filipinos who have astounded the world lately, and the first names that come to mind are likely to be Manny Pacquiao or Charice. The two definitely earned their Pinoy-pride accolades, but they aren’t the only ones who deserve it.
Meet Reinabelle Reyes, a 28-year-old astrophysicist who astounded scientists all over the world when she proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity on a cosmic scale. That was when she was only 26.
Einstein’s theories have been verified many times, but it took Reyes and her Princeton University collaborators to verify his Theory of General Relativity, beyond the confines of our solar system.
Led by Reyes, the research team made headlines back in 2010 when they showed how galaxies up to 3.5 billion light years away are clustered together in exactly the way General Relativity predicts. They came up with a new astronomical measurement, which indicates how galaxies are pulled together by gravity, just as Einstein theorized.
Her findings also support the existence of Dark Energy—a force greater than gravity once merely imagined by scientists. This is a big deal, because, even NASA tells us, pinning down the exact properties of Dark Energy is among the most significant problems facing science today. According to the NASA website, Dark Energy “is the deepest mystery in physics, and its resolution is likely to greatly advance our understanding of matter, space, and time.”
Reinabelle Reyes is among the scientists involved in unraveling this profound mystery.
Studying the stars
She was in Manila recently to give a series of talks, and I had the chance to catch up with her at the Manila Observatory in the Ateneo Loyola campus. She is a graduate of the Loyola school herself, earning her BS Physics Degree from Ateneo and graduating summa cum laude—before getting her PhD in Astrophysics from Princeton.
Today, Reyes is a fellow at the University of Chicago’s Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics. It’s a fine opportunity for any physicist to be where she is right now, but she is intent on coming back home one day.
She says she will always have a passion for studying the stars. Yet admits she wouldn’t be fulfilled if she didn’t work on more immediate earth-bound problems—especially since she comes from a country with a long list of them.
When we met, I had almost missed her. Dressed in jeans and a T-shirt that said “Schrodinger’s cat is a zombie,” she looked more like a student. Among a myriad of other things, she told me who Schrodinger was. This girl is passionate. If we weren’t pressed for time, she could have gone on and on about the country’s lack of disaster preparedness and improving K12 education in the Philippines. The country needs more scientists! Eventually, she hopes to be part of the solution.
As her schedule was packed, we had to continue our conversation over e-mail, a portion of which appears below. Some of the things she was candid about—winning the Nobel Prize, disproving Einstein, the arrogance of scientists, God, and the Dalai Lama.
Continue reaeding at Rappler.com