January 31 and February 14, 2018 - 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Michael Strauss, Ph.D., Department of Astrophysical Sciences
We live at a unique point in human history: for the first time, we have a detailed and quantitative scientific understanding of the structure and evolution of the universe as a whole. We know that the universe came into being 13.8 billion years ago in a Big Bang, and has been expanding ever since. Observations of the distribution of galaxies, the Cosmic Microwave Background, distant supernovae, and other probes give us an amazingly precise and self-consistent cosmological model, which is remarkable for its simplicity and elegance. Yet this model poses more questions than it answers; as it states, the vast majority of the mass and energy in the universe is in forms whose nature we don’t understand: Dark Matter and Dark Energy. We will study the astronomical observations that have led scientists inexorably to the Big Bang model, and explore theoretical ideas, starting with Einstein, of what is causing the acceleration of the expansion of the universe.