Kid rewrites science
A 15-YEAR-OLD schoolboy has helped change the way science views the way galaxies are formed.
Neil Ibata, son of the British astrophysicist Rodrigo Ibata, had done a work experience stint at his father's lab at Strasbourg Observatory a couple of years ago and went back for two days at the end of his school summer holiday.
His father, who was researching Andromeda - the nearest galaxy to our own - asked his son to develop a computer program enabling him to visualise the position and rotation speed of satellite galaxies. "The following evening I had the solution," Neil said.
The program revealed that dwarf galaxies formed a gigantic disk rotating on itself and in alignment with Milky Way. Although the ramifications of the find are not fully clear, they turned Mr Ibata's own assumptions on their head. "I was expecting the opposite," he said.
The findings were written up and have made the cover of Nature, making Neil one of the youngest researchers to co-sign a paper in the scientific journal.
In France, where the Ibata family live, Neil is being hailed by the press as "the new Einstein". Neil, however, is modest about his achievement, which he describes as "beginner's luck".
"I didn't immediately realise the full extent of my discovery," said Neil, a pupil at Pontonniers International Lycee, Strasbourg. "It was my father's team who explained the implications."