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J. Richard Gott III

Emeritus Professor of Astrophysical Sciences, Princton University

John Richard Gott III is a Professor of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University who is noted for his contributions to cosmology and general relativity.

During his high school years, he won several science fair awards, including the prestigious Westinghouse Talent Search. Twenty years later, he became the chairman of the Judges of this same competition. He received a BS in Mathematics from Harvard University in 1969. Just three years later, he completed an award wining PhD thesis in Astrophysics from Princeton University, where he spent the most of his career since then. He has received the Robert J. Trumpler Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, the Astronomical League Award, and Princeton’s President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching. He was for many years Chair of the Judges for the Westinghouse and Intel Science Talent Search.

His paper “On the Infall of Matter into Clusters of Galaxies and Some Effects on Their Evolution” co-authored with Jim Gunn has received over 1500 citations. He proposed that the clustering pattern of galaxies in the universe should be spongelike–a prediction now confirmed by numerous surveys. He discovered exact solutions to Einstein’s field equations for the gravitational field around one cosmic string (in 1985) and two moving cosmic strings (in 1991). This second solution has been of particular interest because, if the strings move fast enough, at nearly the speed of light, time travel to the past can occur.

His paper with Li-Xin Li, “Can the Universe Create Itself?” explores the idea of how the laws of physics may permit the universe to be its own mother. His book Time Travel in Einstein’s Universe was selected by Booklist as one of four “Editors’ Choice” science books for 2001. He has published papers on map projections in Cartographica. His picture has appeared Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times. He wrote an article on time travel for Time magazine as part of its cover story on the future (April 10, 2000). His and Mario Juric’s Map of the Universe appeared in the New York Times (January 13, 2004), New Scientist, and Astronomy. Gott and Juric are in Guinness World Records 2006 for finding the largest structure in the universe: the Sloan Great Wall of Galaxies (1.37 billion light years long). Gott’s Copernican argument for space colonization was the subject of an article in the New York Times

Gott is a Presbyterian who distinguishes physical from meta-physical questions by their teleology; he believes that his writings are entirely scientific (not trespassing into the theology) because the motivation for the way things are (or might be) is never examined.


Topic Series


Time Travel in Einstein's Universe: The Physical Possibilities of Travel Through Time

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