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Nov. 30, 2005 Press Contact: Steve Koppes
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Scientists to present views on extra dimensions, dark energy, other mysteries of the universe in free public event Dec. 12

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“New Views of the Universe: Extra Dimensions, Dark Energy and Cosmic Adventures,” is the title of a panel discussion that will begin at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at the Harris Theater in Chicago’s Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph. The event is free and open to the public and is sponsored by the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics and the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, and the Illinois Humanities Council.

Serving as panelists for the discussion will be five scientists who are participating in “New Views of the Universe,” the inaugural symposium of the Kavli Institute. Moderating the panel will be Ira Flatow, the host of National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation: Science Friday,” a weekly science, technology and environment news program.

Recent discoveries in cosmology have revealed a universe in which ordinary matter, the stuff of which humans, stars and galaxies are made, accounts for less than five percent of the universe’s total mass and energy.

The vast majority of the universe, meanwhile, is made of a mysterious force that astronomers call “dark energy.” This vague name reflects the fact that scientists simply do not know what it is. They only know that it acts in opposition to gravity, accelerating the expansion of the universe. The discovery in 1998 that the expansion of the universe is accelerating was itself a surprise. Astronomers had expected to find that its expansion, driven by the big bang, was slowing down under the force of gravity.

Discussing these findings, and also speculating about what future discoveries might bring regarding cosmic destiny, the existence of extra dimensions and multiverses (multiple or parallel universes), will be Wendy Freedman, director of the Carnegie Observatories; Rocky Kolb, a cosmological theorist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the University of Chicago; Lawrence Krauss, a cosmologist at Case Western Reserve University; Lisa Randall, a particle theorist at Harvard University; and Michael Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago and an assistant director of the National Science Foundation.

Freedman is the Crawford H. Greenewalt chair and director of Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, Calif. Her research interests encompass the cosmic distance scale, extragalactic astronomy, stellar populations of galaxies, and cosmology. She led the team that used the Hubble Space Telescope to determine the expansion rate of the universe. This expansion rate had been poorly known for many years until Freedman, along with colleagues, measured it with unprecedented precision in 2001.

Freedman is working on a design for the next big telescope, called the Giant Magellan Telescope. She also is using supernovae (exploding stars) to learn more about dark energy. Her honors include membership in the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and awards from the Cosmos Club and the American Physical Society.

Kolb is director of the Particle Astrophysics Center at Fermilab and a Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. The author of more than 200 scientific papers, he applies elementary particle physics to the study of the very early universe in his research.

Kolb’s book for the general public, Blind Watchers of the Sky, received the 1996 Eugene Emme Astronautical Literature Award. He participates in Fermilab’s Saturday Morning Physics Program for high school students and has lectured at many venues around the world, including Chicago’s Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum and the Royal Society of London. He also has appeared in several television productions, as well as in the OMNIMAX/IMAX film The Cosmic Voyage.

Krauss is the Ambrose Swasey professor of physics and director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University. He is an internationally known cosmologist who has made important contributions in such areas as dark matter, big bang nucleosynthesis (creation of chemical elements), general relativity, dark energy and black holes. He is the author of seven popular books, including the international bestseller The Physics of Star Trek. His latest book, published in October 2005, is Hiding in the Mirror: The Mysterious Allure of Extra Dimensions from Plato to String Theory and Beyond.

Described as a public intellectual by Scientific American, Krauss appears frequently on radio and television. His essays on evolution and intelligent design and other topics have appeared in the New York Times. He has received numerous awards for his research, writing and lecturing, including the Public Understanding of Science Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Randall is a Professor of physics at Harvard University, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and one of the most frequently cited theoretical physicists of recent years. Randall is frequently interviewed by journalists and recently wrote an op-ed article about science communication for the New York Times.

Her research concerns the fundamental nature of particles and forces and how matter’s basic elements relate to the physical properties of the world that we see. She has worked on a variety of ideas regarding what might lie beyond established particle physics and cosmological theories. These ideas include theories of extra dimensions of space, the subject of her new book, Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions.

Turner is the Bruce and Diana Rauner Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. Currently, he is completing a two-year term as assistant director for mathematical and physical sciences at the National Science Foundation.

Turner helped to pioneer the interdisciplinary field of particle physics and cosmology, which exploits the deep connections that exist between the inner space of elementary particles and the outer space of cosmology. With Kolb he co-authored The Early Universe, the definitive work in the field. He also is the author of more than 300 scientific papers, and has presented more than 150 public lectures in venues ranging from Katmandu to Naperville, and from San Francisco to Vienna. His many honors include membership in the National Academy of Sciences.

Flatow, the moderator, served as NPR’s science correspondent from 1971 to 1986. During that time he covered science from such locales as the Kennedy Space Center, Three Mile Island, Antarctica and the South Pole.

Flatow is the author of two books, They All Laughed...From Light Bulbs to Lasers: The Fascinating Stories Behind the Great Inventions That Have Changed our Lives, and Rainbows, Curve Balls and Other Wonders of the Natural World Explained. He also is host of the four-part PBS series “Big Ideas,” produced by WNET in New York. His honors include the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award and the Carl Sagan Award.

For more information about the Dec. 12 event, see http://newviews.uchicago.edu/public/, or call 773-702-4338.

 

http://www-news.uchicago.edu/releases/05/051130.cosmopanel.shtml
Last modified at 08:16 AM CST on Wednesday, November 30, 2005.

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