The 2006 Nobel Prize in physics is shared by John C. Mather, of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and George F. Smoot, a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and an astrophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, for their work studying the infant Universe and contributing to a better understanding of the origin of stars and galaxies. Using the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite launched by NASA in 1989, they analyzed the cosmic microwave background radiation that is a relic of the "Big Bang." The detection of extremely small variations in the temperature of the radiation offered a clue to the distribution of matter in the early Universe. Analysis of the COBE results "provided increased support for the Big Bang scenario for the origin of the Universe, as this is the only scenario that predicts the kind of cosmic microwave background radiation measured by COBE. These measurements also marked the inception of cosmology as a precise science," noted the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in announcing the winners. NSF supported Smoot's research for more than 20 years.
Edmund S. Phelps, the McVickar Professor of Political Economy at Columbia University and director of the Center on Capitalism and Society at the Earth Institute, was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in economics for his work in the 1960s and 1970s that challenged the prevailing view of the relationship between inflation and unemployment represented by the Phillips curve. It led to a better understanding of the short-term and long-term effects of economic policy. In announcing the award, known officially as the The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted that "Phelps showed how the possibilities of stabilization policy in the future depend on today's policy decisions: low inflation today leads to expectations of low inflation also in the future, thereby facilitating future policy making." Since the first Nobel Prize in economics was awarded in 1969, 35 NSF grant recipients have received the honor. Phelps' first NSF award was GS-33374, "The Economics of Income Redistribution." His most recent NSF award was #8721847, "Microeconomic Foundations for a Real Theory of Employment Fluctuations."