Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Frontiers of Science

I hardly have any time for blogging today. Tomorrow evening I'm giving the Frontiers of Science lecture here at Syracuse. This is a popular-level lecture and my title is "Modern Cosmology and the Building Blocks of the Universe". The talk will be some kind of amalgam of an existing public lecture that summarizes much of 20th century cosmology, a second that I gave in May 2004 as the public lecture at the Dark Side of the Universe workshop at the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics, and some material that I'm still putting together. As you can tell, this is not exactly finished yet (hence the lack of blogging time). On the plus side, I do have an abstract though:

"No two ways about it - the universe is really, really big! If we want to understand it, we need to know about nature on very large scales. On the other hand, I think we'd all agree that atoms and their constituents are extremely small! To understand them requires us to know about nature on very small scales. The challenge of modern cosmology is to use these seemingly different aspects of physics to explain how a young, hot, small universe became the old, cold, huge universe we see today: to understand the physics of the Big Bang. In the first part of this talk, we will tour the major ideas of 20th century cosmology. We will see that a series of remarkable experiments completed over the last decade provide convincing evidence that the universe is roughly 4% ordinary matter (the stuff of the periodic table), 26% dark matter (the nature of which is mostly unknown), and 70% dark energy (the nature of which is almost completely unknown). In the second part, I will try to give a picture of how cosmologists are trying to address these questions, requiring the physics of the large and the physics of the small to work together."
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