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Events at Physics

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Astronomy Colloquium
TUESDAY TALK
A Philosophically-Informed Appraisal of the Schmidt-Sanduleak Law of Star Formation: "Not Even Wrong"
Date: Tuesday, April 19th
Time: 12:00 pm
Place: 4421 Sterling Hall
Speaker: Barry F. Madore, Carnegie Observatories and Dept of Astronomy & Astrophysics University of Chicago
Abstract: Galaxy evolution simulations depend critically upon modeling star
formation; however, astronomy does not yet have a "first principles"theory of star formation. One of the most influential parametric descriptions of star formation is the so-called "Schmidt Law", which supposes that the rate of star formation is properly described as a power-law function of the local gas density. I will discuss the popular appeal of the Schmidt Law among galaxy modelers, as well as its observational and conceptual support. But I will then step back and adopt a philosophically-informed stance and make the case that the rather uncritical acceptance of this "law" for more than half a century thwarted a more straightforward, and physically more meaningful interpretation of the empirical data that is now in hand. Viewed and interpreted in the context of cyclical autocatalytic)reaction network I will present new data and new conclusions on the rate of star formation in galaxies deriving explicitly the timescales involved in the cyclical process of star formation and the efficiencies involved in converting gas into stars.
Host: Prof Jay Gallagher
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