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This Week at Physics

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Event Number 3514

  Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

PUBLIC ASTRONOMY WHITFORD LECTURE
Heart of Darkness
Time: 12:00 pm
Place: 145 BIRGE HALL
Speaker: Jeremiah Ostriker, Columbia Universty
Abstract: Can we unravel the secrets to of the universe and construct a scientific model that is believable? Over the past forty years, we have learned that two little-understood components--dark matter and dark energy--comprise most of the known cosmos, explain the growth of all cosmic structure, and hold the key to the universe's fate. The first of these accelerates the collapse of over-dense lumps and the formation of cosmic structures while the second pushes apart the structures that have formed.
From our early attempts to comprehend the solar system, to current space based exploration of our own galaxy and the realm of the nebulae beyond, to the detection of the primordial fluctuations of energy from which all subsequent structure developed, we will try to both explain the physics and also the history of how the current model of our universe arose and has passed every test hurled at it by the skeptics. Throughout this story, an essential theme is emphasized: how three aspects of rational inquiry--the application of direct measurement and observation, the introduction of mathematical modeling, and the requirement that hypotheses should be testable and verifiable--guide scientific progress and underpin our modern cosmological paradigm. While the resulting model “works” to great precision, it still leaves unanswered some of the most fundamental cosmic questions. We know that a cosmic model with more dark matter than ordinary chemical elements and even more dark energy than dark matter works well – ie matches all of the facts – but we do not know the nature of these dominant dark components.
Host: Dept of Astronomy
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