Steven Balbus is an astrophysicist widely recognised for his studies in astrophysical fluid dynamics. He is perhaps best known for his work with J. Hawley on what is now usually referred to as the magnetorotational instability, a highly destabilizing process believed to be at the heart of accretion disk turbulence, the origin of which had been a longstanding problem. He and Hawley were awarded the 2013 Shaw Prize in Astronomy for their work. Steven is the Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford University and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences.
Other areas in which Steven has made important contributions include the dynamics of heating and cooling processes in hot plasmas and the behaviour of gas in spiral galaxies. His work is noteworthy for its inclusion of magnetism, showing that even very weak fields can have profound dynamical consequences. He has developed a novel theory of the Sun’s internal rotation, and has recently ventured into a very different interdisciplinary field: how ocean tides in the Palaeozoic Era may have influenced vertebrate evolution.
Savilian Professor of Astronomy, Department of Physics, University of Oxford