Salam Distinguished Lectures 2021 by Prof. David Spergel. Lecture 1: "Our Simple Strange Universe"
Starts 27 Jan 2021 16:00
Ends 27 Jan 2021 18:00
Central European Time
David Spergel is the director of the Center for Computational Astrophysics. His research interests range from the search for planets around nearby stars to the shape of the universe.
Since completing his Ph.D. work, he has been interested in using laboratory experiments and astronomical observations to probe the nature of dark matter and look for new physics. Using microwave background observations from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) and the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, he has measured the age, shape and composition of the universe. His observations have played a significant role in establishing the standard model of cosmology. Spergel is one of the leaders of the Simons Observatory, which will include a planned millimeter-wave telescope that will allow us to take the next step in studying the microwave sky and probing the history of the universe.
Spergel is co-chair of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope (formerly known as WFIRST) science team. The Roman Telescope will study the nature of dark energy, complete the demographic survey of extrasolar planets, characterize the atmospheres of nearby planets and survey the universe with more than 100 times the field of view of the Hubble Space Telescope.
After 30 years at Princeton, Spergel is now retired and full-time at the Simons Foundation, and Charles Young Professor of Astronomy Emeritus on the Class of 1897 Foundation at Princeton University where he was department chair for nearly a decade. He is associate faculty member in both the department of physics and the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton. He has been the mentor of 32 graduate students, 35 postdoctoral fellows and 60 undergraduates, and continues to advise and mentor graduate students at Princeton. Spergel is a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2007, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012 and was elected a Legacy Fellow of the American Astronomical Society in 2020. His work has been recognized with the Warner Prize and the Heinemann Prize, the MacArthur Fellowship, Shaw Prize, Gruber Prize, and the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.
Abstract for the public talk on "Our Simple Strange Universe"
Observations of the microwave background, the left-over heat from the big bang, the large-scale distribution of galaxies and the properties of distant supernova have led to a remarkable simple model for our universe. With only five parameters (the density of atoms, the density of matter, the age of the universe, the amplitude of fluctuations in the early universe and their scale dependance), this model can fit a host of astronomical observations. We have now determined these basic parameters at the few percent level or better. While simple, our universe is very strange. Atoms make up only 5% of the universe, most of the universe is made of mysterious dark matter and dark energy. We do not understand how the universe began or why there is more matter than anti-matter. I will review our current understanding and look forward to future measurements that can address these big open questions.