William George Unruh Astronomy, Astrophysics and Space Science

Contributing to theories on gravity and black holes, early cosmology, and quantum phenomena

"William Blake said 'If a fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise.' I'm grateful that society allows me and other scientists to persist."

The Story

In his research, Unruh applies quantum mechanics to study gravity and the forces that existed at the moment of creation according to the “Big Bang” theory. He is also examining the process of black hole evaporation, discovered by the great English physicist Stephen Hawking, which is still a mystery. Sonic black holes which Unruh calls "dumb holes" exist in a region where a fluid flows faster than the speed of sound. Unruh argues that 'hot' sound waves are created in these conditions through a poorly understood quantum process related to black holes.

Another of Unruh's research areas is quantum computation: using quantum laws to design computers able to solve certain problems billions of times faster than traditional equipment.

Unruh is also a Unix hacker and cryptographer and has published numerous articles on the web and in newsgroups on these subjects.


Sources: Canadian Who’s Who 1993, UBC Reports 2001

Career ideas:

  • research scientist, physics
  • research scientist, electronics
  • research scientist, communications
  • research scientist, aerospace
  • research scientist, remote sensing
  • nuclear physicist
  • optics physicist
  • plasma physicist
  • solid state physicist
  • astrophysicist
  • cosmologist
  • experimental physicist

The Person

August 28, 1945
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Vancouver, BC
Physicist; Cosmologist; Professor, University of British Columbia; Director, Cosmology, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
Physics, UBC
  • BSc University of Manitoba, 1967
  • MA Princeton University, New Jersey, 1969
  • PhD Princeton, 1971
  • Rutherford medal of the Royal Society of Canada, 1982
  • Herzberg Medal of the Canadian Association of Physics, 1983
  • Steacie Prize, 1984
  • Steacie Fellowship, 1984-86
  • BC Science Council Gold Medal, 1990
  • Royal Society of London, 2001
Last Updated
September 25, 2015

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question #561

Heisenberg's uncertainty principle tells you that the mass of a particle multiplied by the imprecision of its position mutiplied by the imprecision of its speed cannot be less than the Planck constant, but the mass of the photon is equal to 0 yet its speed always equals the speed of light, so the result of the equation is necessarily equal to 0! Can you explain that to me?

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