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Public Talk

Our Simple Strange Universe

October 31, 2018

When: October 31, 2018 7:00PM
Where: The New Vic Theater, 33 West Victoria Street, Santa Barbara

David Spergel

Princeton University

Our universe seems to be both remarkably simple and very strange. With 5 basic numbers (its age, the density of atoms and matter, and a description of its initial lumpiness), we can completely describe cosmology. On the other hand, there is so much that we don’t understand: more than 95% of the universe is in the form of dark matter and dark energy. I will describe how observations of the microwave background, the left-over heat from the Big Bang, have helped shape our understanding of cosmology and how future observations could reveal the origin of cosmic acceleration.

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David Spergel

David Spergel is the Charles Young Professor of Astronomy on the Class of 1897 Foundation at Princeton University and the director of the Center for Computational Astrophysics at the Flatiron Institute in New York. He serves as co-chair of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) science team. WFIRST 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. Professor Spergel is also the co-chair of the Global Coordination of Ground and Space Astrophysics working group of the International Astronomical Union.

Spergel is interested in using laboratory experiments and astronomical observations to probe the nature of dark matter and look for new physics. Recently, he has been active in the exploration of data from the Gaia satellite and observations made by Subaru's Hyper Suprime-Cam. 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. These 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.

Professor Spergel is the recipient of many awards, including a MacArthur "Genius Grant" in 2001, the Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics in 2015, and the Breakthrough Prize in 2018.

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