KICP in the News, 2006



 
The New Views of the Universe: Public Panel Discussion
Chicago Public Radio, January 20, 2006
Chicago Public Radio

The New Views of the Universe: Extra Dimensions, Dark Energy and Cosmic Adventures Public Cosmology Panel was recorded and will be broadcast on Chicago Public Radio WBEZ, 91.5 Sunday January 22, 2006 7:00PM (CST)
 
John Carlstrom was awarded the Beatrice Tinsley Prize of the American Astronomical Society
The American Astronomical Society, February 8, 2006
The American Astronomical Society

Dr. John E. Carlstrom, University of Chicago, Dept. of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize for 2006

The Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize recognizes an outstanding research contribution to astronomy or astrophysics, of an exceptionally creative or innovative character. The Prize is normally awarded every two years. No restrictions are placed on a candidate's citizenship or country of residency. It has been awarded since 1986, when the first recipient was Dr. S. Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Dr. John E. Carlstrom is cited, “For his innovative work on the use of interferometry to study the early Universe through CMB fluctuations and polarimetry and the Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect. He has produced results that strongly constrain cosmological models of the amount and nature of dark matter and energy and the influence of cosmic inflation.

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KICP Members: John E. Carlstrom
 
Prof. Sean Carroll on gravity as an explanation for the expanding universe
ScienceNOW Daily News, February 15, 2006
by Adrian Cho, ScienceNOW Daily News

Good old gravity--slightly modified--can account for the accelerating expansion of the universe, theoretical physicists report. That means a tuned-up theory of gravity might obviate the need for some sort of bizarre ''dark energy'' that stretches the cosmos.

Eight years ago, astronomers and astrophysicists announced a radical finding. They had studied stellar explosions called type Ia supernovae and found that the farthest ones were so distant that the universe must be expanding at an ever greater rate (ScienceNOW, 26 February 1998). That suggested some form of dark energy is stretching spacetime, a hypothesis reinforced by measurements of the microwave afterglow (ScienceNOW, 11 February 2003) of the big bang and the clustering of galaxies (ScienceNOW, 18 May 2004). Yet, no one knows what the weird stuff might be.

Now theorists report that the cosmic acceleration might be explained by gravity alone, without the need for dark energy. According to Einstein's theory, spacetime bends and warps in the presence of matter and energy, producing the effects we call gravity. In general relativity, the density of energy and matter essentially equals the curvature of spacetime. But in recent years, researchers have toyed with equations that include not only a term proportional to the curvature but also inverse powers of the curvature.

Those terms are small when spacetime is tightly curved and gravity is strong, so they don't mess up gravity within the solar system. But on gargantuan scales where the curvature is small and gravity is weak, the terms might drive an accelerating expansion. One of the theories can account for the supernova data and does not run afoul of other observations, report Olga Mena and José Santiago of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, and colleagues in 3 February issue of Physical Review Letters. However to fit the data, the theory must still include a type of unobserved matter called "dark matter" Santiago says.

"I'm surprised that it works so well," says Sean Carroll of the University of Chicago in Illinois, who developed the theoretical model upon which the researchers based their work. Such theories are ad hoc and not meant to be the final word, Carroll says. But they might give theorists vital clues about how to construct a fundamental theory without dark energy, which might be more appealing conceptually. Santiago says the next step is to test the theory against the subtler microwave-afterglow and galaxy-cluster data.

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KICP Members: Sean M. Carroll
 
Cafe Scientifique ''Get your Science On''
The Columbia Chronicle, May 8, 2006
by Tiffany Breyne, The Columbia Chronicle

Randy Landsberg, director of public outreach for the astronomy and astrophysics department at the University of Chicago, is the founder of the Chicago chapter and organized the first event. Since his job is to find ways to involve the community with science, Landsberg thought that the cafe would be a good way to do just that.

''It's an opportunity to go out into the community and let people, whoever they are, who might not normally have this opportunity or might not want to go to the formal institutions, [talk about science] in a normal, comforting environment,'' Landsberg said.

Landsberg thinks the meetings are becoming so popular because of a New York Times article about the club that ran in February. Landsberg said the article caused a ''huge surge'' in cafe openings across the country, including one in Evanston that has yet to meet up.

Scientist Sean Carroll, assistant professor in the physics department at the Enrico Fermi Institute and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the U of C, was the speaker in attendance for the first meeting. Carroll addressed the issue of time and how it travels forward, and not backward. Carroll said that the audience turnout of 40 to 50 people with little to no formal science background was a success.

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KICP Members: Randall H. Landsberg
 
American Academy of Arts and Sciences elects Fred Kavli as member
The University of Chicago Chronicle, May 18, 2006
The University of Chicago Chronicle

Also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences this year is Fred Kavli, the founder of the Kavli Foundation of Santa Barbara, Calif., which donated $7.5 million to the University in 2004, to make permanent the Center for Cosmological Physics.
...
Kavli, a Norwegian-born physicist, founded the Kavli Foundation in 2000 to advance science for the benefit of humanity and to promote increased public understanding and support for scientists and their work. Kavli and the foundation support 10 research institutes worldwide, including Chicago. More than 70 scientists and students at the renamed Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics carry out research that fuses cosmology with particle physics.

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Simulating cosmic collisions prepares astronomers to detect gravitational waves
The University of Chicago Chronicle, May 25, 2006
by Steve Koppes, The University of Chicago Chronicle

A wispy collection of atoms and molecules fuels the vast cosmic maelstroms produced by colliding galaxies and merging supermassive black holes, according to some of the most extensive supercomputer simulations ever conducted.

''We found that gas is essential in driving the co-evolution of galaxies and supermassive black holes,'' said Stelios Kazantzidis, a Fellow in the University's Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics. He and his collaborators published their results in the April 2005 issue of The Astrophysical Journal and in February on astro-ph, an online repository of astronomical research papers.

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KICP Members: Stelios Kazantzidis
 
Galaxy evolution in cyber universe matches astronomical observations in fine detail
The University of Chicago News Office, June 6, 2006
by Steve Koppes, The University of Chicago News Office

Scientists at the University of Chicago have bolstered the case for a popular scenario of the big bang theory that neatly explains the arrangement of galaxies throughout the universe. Their supercomputer simulation shows how dark matter, an invisible material of unknown composition, herded luminous matter in the universe from its initial smooth state into the cosmic web of galaxies and galaxy clusters that populate the universe.

Previous studies by other researchers had already verified the main features of this scenario, called the cold dark matter model. The Chicago team further extended this work by comparing the results of their supercomputer simulations to the newest, most detailed astronomical observations available today. They found an excellent fit, and they did so without basing their simulations on a lot of complex assumptions.

''The model we use is really, really simple,'' said Andrey Kravtsov, Associate Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics. ''We want to see how well this framework can do with a minimum number of assumptions.''

A paper co-authored by Kravtsov, Charlie Conroy and Risa Wechsler describing these findings will be published in the June 20 issue of the Astrophysical Journal. The research was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, with additional support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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KICP Members: Andrey V. Kravtsov
 
Simulations show dark matter's role in galaxy formation
The University Of Chicago Chronicle Vol. 25 No. 19, July 13, 2006
by Steve Koppes, The University Of Chicago Chronicle Vol. 25 No. 19

Scientists at the University have bolstered the case for a popular scenario of the big bang theory that neatly explains the arrangement of galaxies throughout the universe. Their supercomputer simulations show how dark matter - an invisible material of unknown composition - herded luminous matter in the universe from its initial smooth state into the cosmic web of galaxies and galaxy clusters that populate the universe.

In previous studies, other researchers had already verified the main features of this scenario, called the cold dark matter model. The Chicago team extended this work by comparing the results of their supercomputer simulations to the newest, most detailed astronomical observations available. They found an excellent fit, and they did so without basing their simulations on a lot of complex assumptions.

"The model we use is really, really simple," said Andrey Kravtsov, Associate Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics. "We want to see how well this framework can do with a minimum number of assumptions."

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KICP Members: Andrey V. Kravtsov
 
Cronin Fest activities to honor Nobel Laureate Sept. 8-9 on his 75th birthday
News Office, The University of Chicago, September 6, 2006
by Steve Koppes, News Office, The University of Chicago

Nearly 300 colleagues and admirers from around the world will convene at the University of Chicago to celebrate the 75th birthday of James Cronin, who shared the 1980 Nobel Prize in physics, during a series of events on Friday, Sept. 8, and Saturday, Sept. 9, at Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St.

Cronin was born on Sept. 29, 1931, in Chicago, while his father was a graduate student in classical languages and literatures at the University of Chicago.

Among the speakers will be Nobel laureate Val Fitch, professor emeritus of physics at Princeton University, and Alan Watson, research professor of physics at the University of Leeds.

While working at Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1964, Cronin and Fitch, both then at Princeton, observed the first example of nature’s preference for matter over antimatter. Without this phenomenon, which physicists technically refer to as charge-parity violation, no matter would exist in the universe anywhere.

In their experiment, for which they received the Nobel, Cronin and Fitch studied the short-lived subatomic particles that appeared after the collision of accelerated protons and the nucleus of an atom.

Later in his career, Cronin and a colleague initiated the Pierre Auger Project, a $50 million collaboration of more than 250 scientists in 17 nations to track down the mysterious sources of rare but extremely powerful cosmic rays that periodically bombard Earth.

High-energy cosmic rays consist of protons and other subatomic scraps of matter that fly through the universe at nearly the speed of light. The most powerful cosmic rays contain more than a hundred million times more energy than the particles produced in the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. When these rays collide with air molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, they trigger a shower that multiplies into billions of secondary particles before they reach the ground.

The project developed from a 1992 suggestion of Cronin and Alan Watson of the University of Leeds. The project broke ground in 1999, and made its first detection of high-energy particles from space in 2001. More than half the observatory’s 1,600 detectors are now collecting data.

When completed late this year, the Auger Observatory will consist of a grid of cosmic-ray detectors and associated electronic instruments that covers 1,200 square miles of the vast plain known as the Pampa Amarilla in western Argentina, approximately 600 miles west of Buenos Aires. Scientists also are planning to build a northern Auger site in southeastern Colorado.

Cronin also is editor of the book Fermi Remembered, published in 2004 by the University of Chicago Press. Fermi earned the Nobel Prize in 1938 for his discovery of new radioactive elements produced by the addition of neutrons to the cores of other atoms, and for the discovery of nuclear reactions brought about by slowly moving electrons. Nevertheless, he is probably best known outside of scientific circles for his leadership role in building the first nuclear reactor at the University of Chicago during World War II.

Fermi Remembered includes contributions from seven Nobel Prize winners and many other scientists who studied or worked with Fermi at the University of Chicago from 1946 until his death in 1954. The book was an outgrowth of a special symposium of the same titled that Cronin organized on Sept. 29, 2001, the 100th anniversary of Fermi’s birth.

“What’s significant about Fermi is if you look through his career, he never just did the same thing. He kept moving on to new scientific challenges,” Cronin once said of Fermi. But the same statement could be applied to Cronin.

“Jim’s career in physics has been marked by his attention to the most pressing problems. He has never hesitated to move to another area of research when there is an important problem to solve,” said James Pilcher, Professor in Physics and Director of the University of Chicago’s Enrico Fermi Institute.

Cronin received his B.S. degree from Southern Methodist University in 1951. He then attended the University of Chicago for graduate school, earning his M.S. in 1953 and his Ph.D. in 1955.

He began his scientific career at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where he served as an assistant physicist from 1955 to 1958. Cronin joined the faculty at Princeton University in 1958, where he remained until 1971, when he was appointed the University Professor of Physics at the University of Chicago. He became University Professor Emeritus of physics in 1997.

Cronin’s honors include the National Medal of Science (1999), the University of Chicago’s Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (1994), the Ernest Lawrence Memorial Award (1976) for outstanding contributions in the field of atomic energy, the John Price Wetherill Medal of the Franklin Institute (1975), and the Research Corporation Award (1968).

He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received honorary doctorates from Universite Pierre et Marie Curie and the University of Leeds.

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KICP Members: James W. Cronin
Scientific projects: Pierre Auger Observatory (AUGER)
 
Surprising clues to mysteries of universe is subject of free lecture series
News Office, The University of Chicago, September 18, 2006
by Steve Koppes, News Office, The University of Chicago

Eight free lectures at the University of Chicago will give individuals who are interested in new scientific discoveries a look into the surprising places experimental physicists often explore to attain a more complete understanding of the laws of nature.

"Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe: Looking for Clues in Surprising Places," is the title of this year's Arthur Holly Compton Lectures, sponsored each spring and fall by the University's Enrico Fermi Institute. The 64th series of these public lectures will begin Saturday, Sept. 23, and will be held each Saturday through Nov. 11. The lectures will be given from 11 a.m. to noon in Room 106 of the Kersten Physics Teaching Center, 5720 S. Ellis Ave. As with all Compton lectures, they are intended to make science accessible to a general audience and to convey the excitement of new discoveries in the physical sciences.

Delivering the lectures will be Brian Odom, Research Associate in the Enrico Fermi Institute and also a Fellow in the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University. Odom will discuss topics including how physicists go deep underground to look for yet undiscovered particles believed to compose the bulk of the universe's mass; how they study atoms caught in laboratory traps in hopes of understanding the origins of matter in the big bang; and how they probe gravity at tiny distances in order to shed light on nature's strange behavior on the huge length scales of the universe.

Odom received his B.S. in physics with honors from Stanford University. He then attended Harvard University, where he received his A.M. and Ph.D. in physics.

A former physicist at the University, Compton is best known for demonstrating that light has the characteristics of both a wave and a particle. He organized the effort to produce plutonium for the atomic bomb and directed the Metallurgical Laboratory Chicago, where Fermi and his colleagues produced the first controlled, nuclear chain reaction in 1942.

For more information about the lecture series, call (773) 702-7823.

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KICP Members: Brian C. Odom
 
Prof. Michael Turner comments on the Nobel Prize in Physics
The New York Times, October 4, 2006
by Dennis Overbye, The New York Times

Michael S. Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, said the COBE measurements had ushered in an era of 'precision cosmology' that continues to this day. "This is likely to be the first of a number of prizes in cosmology in this golden age we find ourselves in," Dr. Turner said.

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KICP Members: Michael S. Turner
 
Meyer to share Gruber Cosmology Prize for COBE work
The University of Chicago Chronicle, November 3, 2006
by Steve Koppes, The University of Chicago Chronicle

Stephan Meyer will share the 2006 Gruber Cosmology Prize with his fellow members of the Cosmic Background Explorer team for their 1992 confirmation that the universe was born in a hot big bang. Meyer's colleagues, John Mather of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and George Smoot of the University of California, Berkeley, this month also received the 2006 Nobel Prize in physics for the work.

Mather accepted the $250,000 Gruber Prize on behalf of the COBE satellite team at the opening ceremony of the International Astronomical Union’s General Assembly in Prague this summer. Meyer, Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics and the College, is Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics.

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KICP Members: Stephan S. Meyer