In the news: Neil Turok

April 26, 2002

Time has neither a beginning nor an end in the model of the universe unveiled yesterday by Neil Turok in collaboration with Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University.

Professor Turok argues that the universe goes through endless cycles of expansion and contraction. According to his Science paper a big bang is followed by the familiar creation of matter and radiation. As the universe expands, the matter and radiation are diluted, leaving the universe smooth, empty and flat. Then it begins to contract in a big crunch and the cycle begins again. We are presently at the beginning of the slow expansion stage, he says.

A collaborator of Stephen Hawking in the department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics at the University of Cambridge, 43-year-old Professor Turok is a well-known cosmologist. One critic said of him: "Neil is one of the great minds of modern cosmology and is a major creative force in the field. But his work is of a highly speculative nature and, as such, is subject to lively debate."

Born in South Africa, his youth was interrupted when his parents, both members of the African National Congress, were jailed by the apartheid regime. His father was convicted of planting a fire bomb in Johannesburg's central post office. He was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison. The family fled to Kenya, Tanzania and, finally, London.

After studying natural sciences at Churchill College, Cambridge, he did a PhD at Imperial College, London, and postdoctorate work at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He bounced back and forth across the Atlantic, including a stint as a full professor at Princeton University, until he became professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge in 1996.

Professor Turok is married to a university lecturer and lists his hobbies as jazz, nature and playing with his daughter Ruby.

NO PHYSICAL FILE'One critic said of him: "Neil is one of the great minds of modern cosmology and is a major creative force in the field. But his work is of a highly speculative nature and, as such, is subject to lively debate'"

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