Neil Turok (PhD Imperial College London, 1983) was Professor of Physics at Princeton University and Chair of Mathematical Physics at the University of Cambridge before assuming his current position as Director of Perimeter Institute. In 2013 he was re-appointed for a second term and additionally awarded the Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Niels Bohr Chair at the institute. Neil's research focuses on developing fundamental theories of cosmology and new observational tests. His predictions for the correlations of the polarization and temperature of the cosmic background radiation (CBR) and of the galaxy-CBR correlations induced by dark energy have been recently confirmed. With Stephen Hawking, he discovered instanton solutions describing the birth of inflationary universes. His work on open inflation forms the basis of the widely discussed multiverse paradigm. With Paul Steinhardt, he developed an alternative, cyclic model for cosmology, whose predictions are so far in agreement with all observational tests. Among his many honours, Turok was awarded Sloan and Packard Fellowships and the James Clerk Maxwell medal of the Institute of Physics (UK). He is a Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) Fellow in Cosmology and Gravity and a Senior Fellow of Massey College in the University of Toronto. In 2012, Turok was selected to deliver the CBC Massey Lectures, broadcast across Canada. The lectures were published as “The Universe Within,” a bestseller which won the 2013 Lane Anderson award, Canada's top prize for popular science writing. Born in South Africa, Turok founded the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Cape Town in 2003. AIMS has since expanded to a network of four centres - in South Africa, Senegal, Ghana, and Cameroon - and has become Africa's most renowned institution for postgraduate training in mathematical science. For his scientific discoveries and his work founding and developing AIMS, Turok was awarded a TED Prize in 2008. He has also been recognized with awards from the World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (WSIE) and the World Innovation Summit on Education (WISE).
I am interested in developing and testing fundamental theories of the cosmos.
Currently, my interests include:
1) Understanding whether one can consistently describe a cosmological "bounce," namely a transition from collapse to expansion, using a semi-classical description of quantum general relativity.
2) Developing a new approach to semi-classical quantum mechanics, capable of providing a precise time-dependent description of quantum processes such as quantum tunnelling, in the small hbar limit. Such an approach would have countless applications, from condensed matter systems and processes to the evaporation of black holes.
3) Understanding the effects of nonlinearities on the evolution of the plasma in the very early universe. In particular, the formation of shocks and the consequent a) departure from local thermal equilibrium, which may be important for baryogenesis, and b) the generation of vorticity which may be important in the origin of primordial magnetic fields.
4) I am fascinated by the results of detailed measurements of the universe on large scales. The presence of dark energy, as well as the extreme simplicity in the large scale structure, seem to me profound clues which no existing theoretical paradigm adequately explains. They may be pointing towards new physical principles, such as conformal symmetry and its spontaneous breakdown, and I am interested in exploring frameworks within which this may be studied.