Cosmology is the one field in which researchers can—literally—witness the past. The cosmic background radiation, ancient light streaming toward us since the Big Bang, provides a pristine window onto the birth and evolution of the universe. Already, the radiation has been key to confirming an early explosive expansion of space, determining the geometric shape of the universe and identifying seeds that resulted in galaxies. Now, the cosmic background radiation is poised to reveal when the first stars formed, what happened in the fraction of a second after the Big Bang, and the answers to a host of other bold questions about the cosmos. Join Nobel Laureate John Mather and other leading scientists who are leading the way.
This program is part of “The Big, the Small, and the Complex,” a series made possible with support from the Kavli Prize.
Lawrence Krauss is an internationally known theoretical physicist and best-selling author. His research focuses on the intersection of cosmology and elementary particle physics. Krauss’s work addresses questions about the origin of matter in the universe, Einstein’s theory of general relativity, astrophysics, the future of the universe, and the properties and description of the dark energy that is thought to account for most of the universe’s present energy content. A fervent advocate for science literacy, Lawrence Krauss has written nine books for a general audience, including the bestseller The Physics of Star Trek, and most recently A Universe from Nothing. He was recently awarded the National Science Board’s Public Service Award for his contributions to public understanding of science. Krauss is foundation professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and director of the ASU Origins Project at Arizona State University.
Nobel Laureate John Mather’s research in cosmology as part of the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) team has been recognized as some of the most important work of the 20th century. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, he led the proposal efforts for COBE. Later, he and his team showed that the cosmic microwave background radiation has a blackbody spectrum within 50 parts per million, which helped confirm the Big Bang theory of the universe. For this work, he received the Nobel Prize in physics in 2006, along with George Smoot. According to the prize committee, “the COBE project can also be regarded as the starting point for cosmology as a precision science.”
Mather is senior astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, and the Senior Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope, the powerful successor to the great Hubble Space Telescope, planned for launch in 2018.
Amber Miller is the Dean of Science for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Physics at Columbia University. She leads the Columbia University Experimental Cosmology group dedicated to studying relic signatures from the Big Bang with the goal of understanding the origin and evolution of the universe. Her team studies the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) and the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich Effect (SZE) using sensitive centimeter and millimeter-wave instruments. Professor Miller has also worked and taught on the interface between science and policy. She developed and taught courses entitled, Science, Politics, and Critical Thinking and Weapons of Mass Destruction, and has recently been a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and consulted for the NYPD. Amber Miller received her BA from U.C. Berkeley in 2005, her PhD from Princeton in 2000, and joined the Columbia faculty in 2002.
Physicist Lyman Page measures the cosmic microwave background radiation left over from the Big Bang to better understand the very early universe and how it has since evolved. He is the Henry DeWolf Smyth Professor of Physics at Princeton University.
David Spergel studies the big questions in cosmology and astrophysics: How large is the universe and what is its shape? Is it finite? What are the dark matter and dark energy that comprise most of the universe’s mass? How did our galaxy form and evolve? Do nearby stars harbor planets like our own Earth, and did life originate on Earth or come from those nearby stars?
The Charles Young Professor of Astronomy and Chair of the Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University, Spergel is best known for his work as a member of the science team for NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) mission, which maps out the universe’s cosmic microwave background radiation. Spergel used WMAP data to determine the age of the universe, the density of matter in the universe and how it fluctuated to form the first galaxies. His published papers on those subjects have been referenced by other scientists more than any other physics research in the new millennium.
Spergel received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and joined the Princeton faculty in 1987. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has been awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, the Shaw Prize, a Sloan Fellowship and the Presidential Young Investigator award. In 2001, TIME magazine listed Spergel as one of America’s top scientists.