National honours for science trio

Geologist, climatologist and astrophysicist lauded by scholarly society

University of Victoria-based astrophysicist Julio Navarro stands in his office on campus. He’s one of three scientists from the school to be honoured by the Royal Society of Canada.

University of Victoria-based astrophysicist Julio Navarro stands in his office on campus. He’s one of three scientists from the school to be honoured by the Royal Society of Canada.

Growing up in a small town in northern Argentina, Julio Navarro would sleep outside on the patio with his family after days in which the temperature hit 45 C.

As a young boy he would wake in the night to watch the star-filled sky.

“The patterns changed all the time, sometimes here and there, but changes in a clockwork fashion. I thought it was fascinating,” said Navarro.

Now an astrophysicist at the University of Victoria, he attributes those nights on the patio with instilling in him a love for the stars. He went on to receive a PhD at Harvard University and did post-doctoral work at Cambridge University in England before being hired at UVic in 1998.

In November he will head to Ottawa with UVic geologist Dante Canil to be inducted into the Royal Society of Canada.

The society is also awarding UVic climatologist Andrew Weaver the 2011 Miroslaw Romanowski Medal for his research, writings and sharing of his work on climate change.

The society, which honours outstanding scholarly work in the arts, humanities and sciences, is including Navarro because of his research, which includes the study of dark matter, a “mysterious substance in the universe.”

His work involves building computer simulations to hypothesize about what building blocks make up the universe. The answers, he said, would increase our knowledge of physics. Although humans know enough to build bridges or even ascertain the age of the universe (13.5 billion years), we don’t know the mechanics of how the universe came to be, Navarro said.

“For example, this dark matter, we don’t even know what it is and yet it’s mixed with most of the universe,” he said. “And the Milky Way, whose stars go around in a plane – why that shape, why not a different shape? And why are there 10 billion stars and not 200 billion stars?”

Those are the kinds of questions Navarro builds simulations for. They run in large computer systems in Europe, he said – “the biggest that academics have access to, sometimes 10,000 linked together that run without stopping for months.”

Cosmology is in its golden age, he said. Scientists understand things about the universe, such as how it began, that were unknown just 30 years ago. “Now there is fairly good agreement within the (astronomy and physics) community that the Big Bang did exist and that it can be measured with accuracy.

“This is an astonishing result. A hundred years from now scientists will look at this time and say ‘this is when cosmology grew into a mature science.’”

vmoreau@oakbaynews.com

Did you know?

• Formed in 1883, the Royal Society of Canada (www.rsc.ca) is an academy of more than 2,000 distinguished scholars, artists and scientists chosen by their peers. This year 75 fellows will be inducted and 12 others will receive awards.

• UVic geologist Dante Canil is being honoured for his research into the Earth’s mantle. His work has expanded knowledge of where diamond deposits are concentrated.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Penelope the cat showed up safe and sound at her owner’s porch after an unusual trip through the news cycle in recent weeks. (Photo courtesy of Reuniting Owners with Animals Missing)
Penelope, cat and friend of the Victoria HarbourCats, returns home safe

The cat had an after an unusual trip through the news cycle in recent weeks

Stanley Fischer (right) died while in a Victoria police jail cell hours after he was arrested on Nov. 15, 1981. Forty years later, his family is questioning his cause of death. (Photo courtesy of Mark Fischer)
Family wants investigation into man’s 1981 death while in Victoria police custody

Stanley Fischer’s death was ruled a suicide after he was found hanging in his jail cell

The Compost Education Centre is hosting its annual spring plant sale on May 8 at 1216 North Park St. Physical distancing protocols will be in effect during the sale, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Black Press Media file photo)
This weekend: Tenth annual spring plant sale hosted by Victoria Compost Education Centre

The non-profit event Saturday, May 8 will feature numerous varieties of plants, live music

Saanich police detectives are investigating a reported sexual assault that occurred near Glanford Park on the evening of Dec. 29, 2020 and have shared an artist’s rendering of the individual. (Image via Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers)
Saanich police release sketch of suspect sought in December sexual assault

Anyone with information asked to contact detectives, Crime Stoppers

Work is progressing on the new student housing building at the University of Victoria. The building will be home to 398 students when complete in September 2022. (Photo courtesy of UVic)
VIDEO: Mass timber installation begins at UVic student housing project

Green technology plays key role in building that will be home to 398 University of Victoria students

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Black bear tranquillized, relocated after wandering around residential Ladysmith

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Most Read