KICP in the News
Obituary: Fred Kavli, Founder and Chairman of The Kavli Foundation
The Kavli Foundation, November 22, 2013
Fred Kavli, founder and chairman of The Kavli Foundation, passed away peacefully on Thursday, November 21, in his home in Santa Barbara at the age of 86.
A philanthropist, physicist, entrepreneur, business leader and innovator, Fred Kavli established The Kavli Foundation to advance science for the benefit of humanity. Based in Southern California, the Foundation today includes an international community of basic research institutes in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience, and theoretical physics. Located on three continents, the institutes are home to some of the most renowned researchers in their fields. The Foundation has also established and supported an international program of conferences, symposia, endowed professorships, and other activities. This includes being a founding partner of the biennial Kavli Prizes, which recognize scientists for their seminal advances in three research areas: astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience.
Kavli began the Foundation in 2000 after divesting his interests in the Kavlico Corporation - a company that he founded and operated as the CEO and sole shareholder, and which became one of the world's largest suppliers of sensors for aeronautic, automotive and industrial applications.
"This is a painful loss for the Foundation and for all of science," said Rockell N. Hankin, Vice Chairman of the Foundation. "We can only take comfort in his extraordinary legacy, which will continue advancing critically important research that benefits all of humanity, and supports scientific work around the globe."
Said Robert W. Conn, President of the Foundation, "We will forever be grateful to Fred Kavli - someone who, with the Foundation, invested his heart and soul into ensuring that science will make this a better world for future generations. And we will carry forward this mission with the same commitment and dedication that he gave to science and his life."
About Fred Kavli
A naturalized American citizen, Kavli was born in 1927 on a small farm in Eresfjord, Norway - a village nestled in the mountains along the Eira River. Kavli would later recall these early days as giving birth to his interest in science, which would blossom further while studying physics at the Norwegian Institute of Technology (now known as the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim). Building his business acumen, Kavli financed his studies with proceeds from a small business he and his brother, both teenagers, ran during World War II, making wood briquettes that could be used as fuel for modified automobiles. Immediately upon completing his studies in 1955 and receiving an engineering degree, he left for Canada and one year later came to the United States. After two years in California, he built upon his entrepreneurial spirit and experience and founded the Kavlico Corporation in Los Angeles in 1958 - later relocated to Moorpark, California. Under his leadership, the company would become one of the world's largest suppliers of sensors for aeronautical, automotive and industrial applications with its products found in such landmark projects as the SR-71 Blackbird and the Space Shuttle.
The company would receive many distinguished awards under Kavli's leadership and patent numerous technological breakthroughs. He remained CEO and sole shareholder of the company until the company was sold in 2000. He subsequently established The Kavli Foundation to support scientific research aimed at improving the quality of life for people around the world.
Over time, the Foundation has established and endowed research institutes at leading universities worldwide, focusing on the areas of astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience and theoretical physics. Today, there are seventeen such institutes and there will be more in the years to come. The Foundation has endowed research institutes in neuroscience at Columbia University, Yale University, the University of California, San Diego and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology; in nanoscience, there are Kavli Institutes at the California Institute of Technology, Cornell University, Harvard University, the Delft University of Technology, and the University of California, Berkeley; in astrophysics and cosmology, the institutes are at Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Cambridge, Peking University, the University of Tokyo; and in theoretical physics, the institutes are at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The Foundation has also endowed seven university professorial chairs, sponsors science symposia and workshops, supports initiatives to engage the public in science and that help scientists themselves be better communicators, and supports excellence in science journalism. This includes endowing the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Starting in 2008, the Foundation launched a series of science prizes to recognize scientists for their seminal advances in astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience. Consisting of a scroll, a gold medal and a cash award of one million dollars, a Kavli Prize in each of these areas is awarded every two years. The Kavli Prizes are presented by the King of Norway in a ceremony in Oslo, Norway and are a partnership between The Kavli Foundation, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. In acknowledgement of their achievement, U.S. laureates have been consistently invited to meet the President in the Oval Office in recognition of the importance of science in achieving a better and more prosperous society.
In addition to establishing institutes and prizes, the Foundation has brought together scientists at meetings that facilitate open dialogue and an exchange of ideas. These meetings have precipitated such major initiatives as the Brain Activity Map proposal, which was a major catalyst for President Obama's Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative announced in April 2013.
During his lifetime, Fred Kavli was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Norwegian Academy of Technological Sciences, and a member of the U.S. President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. A member of the University of California President's Board on Science and Innovation, he was a Trustee of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Foundation. His many honors included receiving the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit for Outstanding Service and honorary doctorates from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Northwestern University, and the University of Oslo. In 2011 he received the Bower Award for Business Leadership from the Franklin Institute, one of the oldest science education centers in the United States, and the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, which is given biennially to one or more individuals who, like Andrew Carnegie, have dedicated their private wealth to public good, and who have sustained impressive careers as philanthropists.
In addition to supporting scientific research and education, Kavli's philanthropic activities included the Fred Kavli Theatre for Performing Arts at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, as well as other projects.
Fred Kavli contracted cholangiocarcinoma, a rare form of cancer, about a year ago and succumbed to complications due to surgeries. He is survived by two children, and nine nephews and nieces.
The family has issued this statement:
"In this moment of grief and deep personal loss, we thank everyone for their kind words and support, and for respecting our need for privacy.
"Fred has always been the anchor and gathering force for our family. He has been an inspiration and someone for us to look up to. We cherish the fond memories of our times together and we give our thanks for all he has done for us. He will be dearly missed.
"We can all reflect upon his example of giving so much of himself to make this world a better place. May his legacy continue to benefit mankind."
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Dark Matter Experiment Has Detected Nothing, Researchers Say Proudly
The New York Times, November 5, 2013
But afterward, Juan I. Collar, a dark matter specialist at the University of Chicago who has been urging the community to take low-mass WIMPs seriously, questioned whether the LUX detector had been adequately calibrated to detect them.
"They do have a real interest in performing those calibrations, because they would settle the issue," Dr. Collar said in an email. "We just have to be patient. At the end they promised to do so, and I have no doubts they will."
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KICP Members: Juan I. Collar
South Pole Telescope helps Argonne scientists study earliest ages of the universe
Argonne National Laboratory, November 5, 2013
For physicist Clarence Chang at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, looking backward in time to the earliest ages of the universe is all in a day's work.
Chang helped design and operate part of the South Pole Telescope, a project that aims a giant telescope at the night sky to track tiny bits of radiation that are still traveling across the universe from the period just after it was born.
"Basically, what we're looking at is the afterglow light of the Big Bang," Chang said.
In the wake of the Big Bang, all the matter in the universe was just hot, dense particles and light. As the universe got older, it began to spread out and cool down over time, and the intense light from that period traveled across space. It's still traveling, hitting us all the time, and it has a very distinct radiation signature. "We call this the Cosmic Microwave Background, and it is essentially a snapshot of the universe as it looked about 400,000 years after the Big Bang," Chang said.
There's still a lot we don't know about the makeup of the early universe. Particularly mysterious are the dark matter and dark energy that appear to make up 95% of the universe, but about which we know very little. Mapping the Cosmic Microwave Background can shed some light on these dark forms.
"The Cosmic Microwave Background photons have traveled so far in time that some of them bumped into the early galaxy clusters along the way," Chang said. "You can detect this because they get kicked around a bit, which changes the radiation signature."
This is useful because one of the things we do know about dark energy is that it affects how galaxy clusters form. Being able to compare the distribution of distant galaxy clusters with the distribution we observe nearby helps physicists decode the role dark energy played - and continues to play - in the universe.
The majority of the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation has wavelengths of just one to two millimeters. These photons are absorbed by water, so in order to catch them, you need a very dry, flat and preferably cold space, which narrows it down to just two locations on Earth. One is the Chilean mountains, where we have a different sky mapping project underway, and the other is the South Pole.
The South Pole telescope is more than 30 feet across; Chang and colleagues at Argonne helped build its camera. ("We had to build the camera ourselves, because no sane person needs a camera that sees down to wavelengths at millimeter length," he said.) He is part of a rotation that travels to the Pole for weeks at a time to check how the camera is functioning and perform maintenance.
Developing and designing the detectors for the camera required expertise from multiple Argonne facilities and research divisions, including the Center for Nanoscale Materials.
At the core of the detector technology is an extremely thin superconducting film. Although superconductors can carry an electrical charge perfectly, they are exquisitely sensitive to changes in temperature. When thermal radiation from the Cosmic Microwave Background hits the camera, it heats the material up slightly, which changes the conductivity of the film. This lets physicists record the energy coming from that particular part of the sky.
"So far we've mapped about 2,500 square degrees of the sky," he said, "so there's just 37,500 to go."
The South Pole telescope is funded through the National Science Foundation and the DOE's Office of Science. The other institutions in the partnership are the University of Chicago, the University of California at Berkeley, Case Western Reserve University, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, McGill University, the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of California at Davis.
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.
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KICP Members: Clarence L. Chang
Scientific projects: South Pole Telescope (SPT)
UC Berkeley, Berkeley Lab announce Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute
Kavli Foundation News, October 3, 2013
Kavli Foundation News
Berkeley - The Kavli Foundation has endowed a new institute at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) to explore the basic science of how to capture and channel energy on the molecular or nanoscale, with the potential for discovering new ways of generating energy for human use.
The Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute (Kavli ENSI), announced today (Thursday, Oct. 3), will be supported by a $20 million endowment, with The Kavli Foundation providing $10 million and UC Berkeley raising equivalent matching funds. The Kavli Foundation will also provide additional start-up funds for the institute. The Kavli ENSI will explore fundamental issues in energy science, using cutting-edge tools and techniques developed to study and manipulate nanomaterials - stuff with dimensions a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair - to understand how solar, heat and vibrational energy are captured and converted into useful work by plants and animals or novel materials.
This new Kavli Institute has already received matching fund gifts from the Heising-Simons Foundation, establishing a Heising-Simons Energy Nanoscience Fellows program, and a donation from the Philomathia Foundation, establishing the Philomathia Discovery Fund.
"The field of nanoscience is poised to change the very foundations of how we should think about future energy conversion systems," said Kavli ENSI Director Paul Alivisatos, who is also director of Berkeley Lab and the Samsung Distinguished Chair in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in UC Berkeley's College of Chemistry. "UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab stand out worldwide for their strong efforts in nanoscience and their research activities related to energy, so energy nanoscience is a particular strength for us."
"I am delighted to welcome the Kavli ENSI into the community of Kavli institutes," said Fred Kavli, Founder and Chairman of The Kavli Foundation. "By exploring the basic science of energy conversion in biological systems, as well as building entirely new hybrid and perhaps even completely artificial systems, the Kavli ENSI is positioned to revolutionize our thinking about the science of energy, and is positioned to do the kind of basic research that will ultimately make this a better world for all of us."
"This new partnership with the Kavli Foundation and the Berkeley Lab is significant and exciting," said UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. "The Kavli Institute will expand our portfolio of research endeavors focused on alternative sources of energy, one of the planet's most pressing and complicated challenges. Progress in the realm of energy nanosciences will be contingent on successful collaboration across conventional scientific boundaries - the very approach that has made Berkeley a global leader in alternative energy research."
"There is simply no better time, given the issues surrounding energy worldwide, to announce an institute dedicated to the basic science of energy. This new Kavli Institute will have superb leadership and a large number of extraordinary faculty affiliated with it," said Robert W. Conn, President of The Kavli Foundation. "I'd like as well to thank both the Heising-Simons Foundation and the Philomathia Foundation for their confidence in Berkeley and in this new Kavli Institute. Their matching gifts will help the Kavli ENSI at Berkeley get off to a very strong start." He added, "There is also no more important time than now to invest in basic scientific research. History has shown that discoveries in basic science have a profound impact on the economy of nations, on the health of people, and on the well-being of societies."
The Kavli ENSI will be the fifth nanoscience institute established by The Kavli Foundation, joining Kavli Institutes at the California Institute of Technology, Cornell University, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and Harvard University. The Foundation funds an international program that includes research institutes, professorships, symposia and other initiatives in the four fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience and theoretical physics. The foundation is also a founder of the Kavli Prizes, which recognize scientists for their seminal advances in astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience.
With the announcement of the Kavli ENSI, The Kavli Foundation has established seventeen institutes worldwide - 11 in the United States, three in Europe and three in Asia.
Scientists at the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute will look beyond today's energy conversion approaches to explore unusual avenues found in biological systems and to build entirely new hybrid or completely artificial systems. For example, Kavli ENSI scientists plan to explore how plant pigments capture energy from the sun and transport this energy for chemical storage, and how the body's molecular motors convert chemical energy into motion inside a cell. Meanwhile, other scientists and engineers plan to build nanodevices that mimic and improve on nature's tricks, using materials ranging from graphene and metal oxide frameworks to nanowires and nanolasers.
The campus and laboratory boast a long history of nanoscience innovation, starting with Alivisatos' work in the science of nanocrystals, ranging from studies of their physical properties to synthesis and applications in biological imaging and renewable energy. Nearly 100 research labs are devoted to aspects of nanoscience and nanoengineering.
"The new Kavli ENSI institute is intended to allow us to explore the principles of energy systems on small scales and is not focused on any particular area of application," Alivisatos emphasized. "Fred Kavli's vision is to support curiosity-driven science. This institute will help to foster a long term perspective."
"Of course, we have all learned that innovative solutions to pressing problems can often start in the basic sciences," said institute co-director Omar Yaghi, the James and Neeltje Tretter Chair and professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley and a Berkeley Lab researcher. Yaghi's work on the nanoscale properties of metal oxide frameworks - porous composites of iron and organic molecules - proved to have wide application in natural gas and hydrogen storage and carbon capture.
Alivisatos said that much of today's energy research focuses on improving well-known technologies, such as batteries, liquid fuels, solar cells and wind generators. On the nanoscale, however, energy is captured, channeled and stored in totally different ways dictated by the quantum mechanical nature of small-scale interactions.
"We don't fully understand some foundational issues about how energy is converted to work on really short length scales," he said.
Research by UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab chemist Graham Fleming has shown, for example, that when leaf pigments capture light in the form of photons, electrons are excited and interact in a coherent way not seen at larger scales. This quantum coherence could potentially be incorporated into nanoscale artificial systems to produce energy on a commercial scale.
While studying nanoscale motors inside cells, UC Berkeley physicist Carlos Bustamante and Berkeley Lab theorist Gavin Crooks discovered that energy flow does not always follow the standard rules of macroscopic systems. Nanomotors can sometimes move backward, for example, akin to a ball rolling uphill. Such quantum weirdness might be replicated to create more efficient nanomachines or self-regulating nanoscale energy circuits.
Other Kavli ENSI scientists plan to investigate how heat flows in nanomaterials and whether the vibrational energy, or phonons, can be channeled to make thermal rectifiers, diodes or transistors analogous to electronic switches in use today; develop novel materials, ranging from polymers to cage structures and nanowires, with unusual nanoscale properties; or design materials that could sort, count and channel molecules along prescribed paths and over diverse energy landscapes to carry out complex chemical conversions.
"I think that by bringing together people who make new forms of matter, others who know how to manipulate matter on a fine scale, and those who try to understand how electrons or light propagate through these materials, we will get the kind of out-of-the-box thinking from which whole new areas of research emerge," Yaghi said.
Institute co-director Peidong Yang, the S.K. and Angela Chan Distinguished Professor of Energy in the College of Chemistry, said that Kavli ENSI's multidisciplinary, intellectually stimulating environment will be ideal for learning "how to program the assembly of nanoscopic building blocks, to create the necessary interfaces so that energy flow, molecular and charge-charge transport can be controlled in a cooperative manner."
While the institute will not have separate lab space, its administrative offices will be housed in two new buildings expected to be completed next year: Campbell Hall on the UC Berkeley campus and the Solar Energy Research Center at Berkeley Lab.
The Philomathia Discovery Fund operating within the Kavli ENSI will support research projects that have exceptional promise to deliver fundamental conceptual and technical breakthroughs. This Discovery Fund is made possible by a matching gift from the Philomathia Foundation, which was founded to promote human values and science through education and research.
The Heising-Simons Energy Nanoscience Fellows Program will establish a named fellowship to provide support for outstanding graduate students, postdocs or early-career faculty who are performing research affiliated with the Kavli Institute. This fellowship is made possible by a matching gift from the Heising-Simons Foundation, which supports efforts in education, environment, science and public policy.
The Kavli Foundation, dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of humanity, promoting public understanding of scientific research and supporting scientists and their work, was founded in 2000 by physicist Fred Kavli, the founder, former chairman and former chief executive officer of Kavlico Corporation in Moorpark, Calif., a supplier of sensors for aeronautics, automotive and industrial applications.
Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley: rlsandersberkeley.edu, (510) 643-6998
Lynn Yarris, Berkeley Lab: lcyarrislbl.gov, (510) 486-5375
James Cohen, The Kavli Foundation: cohenkavlifoundation.org, (805) 278-7495
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The Dark Energy Camera
Chicago Tonight, September 27, 2013
It's the world's most powerful digital camera and it sits atop the Blanco telescope in the Andes Mountains of Chile. But it was constructed on the campus of Fermilab in far west suburban Batavia. The Dark Energy Camera officially began its work on August 31 and has already captured some amazing images of outer space. Its real mission, though, is to help scientists figure out if so-called Dark Energy is responsible for the universe's accelerating expansion. We learn how the camera is helping scientists unravel one of the greatest mysteries in the cosmos. View a slideshow of photos taken by the Dark Energy Camera.
Members of the Dark Energy Survey collaboration explain what they hope to learn by studying the southern sky with the world's most advanced digital camera in the following video.
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KICP Members: Joshua A. Frieman
Scientific projects: Dark Energy Survey (DES)
Giant digital camera probes cosmic 'dark energy,' the universe's deepest mystery
The Washington Post, September 11, 2013
With the whir of a giant digital camera, the biggest mystery in the universe is about to become a bit less mysterious.
Fifteen years ago, the world of science was rocked by the discovery that, contrary to our notions of gravity, distant galaxies appeared to be flying apart at an ever-accelerating rate. The observation implied that space itself was stretching apart faster and faster. It was akin to watching a dropped ball reverse course, speed upward and disappear into the sky.
The discovery made many cosmologists - the scientists who probe the very nature of nature itself - acutely uncomfortable. For either our understanding of gravity is cockeyed, or some mysterious repulsive force - quickly and glibly dubbed "dark energy" - permeates the universe.
In 2011, the Nobel Committee blessed the improbable discovery as real, handing their prize in physics to the two teams that nearly simultaneously made the observation.
"As unhappy as it made some of us, the expansion of the universe is indeed accelerating," said Marc Kamionkowski, professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University. "That's how the universe works."
Now, after years of planning and construction, four new projects at telescopes in Chile, Hawaii and the South Pole are getting a handle on what, exactly, is doing this unseemly pushing.
Leading the way is the world's most powerful digital camera, constructed at Fermilab, the Energy Department facility in Illinois. The $50 million Dark Energy Camera took a decade to plan and build, and it sports a resolution of 570 megapixels - about a hundredfold more pixels than a smartphone camera. Technicians installed it atop a telescope in Chile last year, and after initial jitters - the camera was so heavy it made the telescope jiggle - the camera has been "tested, tweaked and fine-tuned," said Joshua Frieman, the Fermilab scientist leading the project, which has enlisted 120 scientists from 23 countries.
On Aug. 31, the big camera began snapping its way across a huge swath of the southern sky.
Each click captures light from nearly 100,000 distant galaxies. Over the next five years, the project, called the Dark Energy Survey, will catalog some 300 million galaxies and thousands of exploding stars flung across distant space and time, in what Frieman called "the biggest galactic survey yet."
Every night, scientists will beam 400 gigabytes of camera data to a supercomputing center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where machines will build a giant time-lapse map of the universe going back some 8 billion years - or more than half way to the Big Bang that started it all.
Frieman calls it "a movie of cosmic history."
Scrutinizing this movie will narrow down the possibilities for what's causing cosmic acceleration. Because this acceleration can't be measured directly, its nature can only be divined indirectly, by measuring, for instance, how clumps of galaxies coalesce across space and time.
One possibility: Our understanding of gravity, explained by Einstein's general theory of relativity, breaks down across huge distances. The theory marked the culmination of Einstein's hardest thinking, and since its inception in 1916 it has withstood every test thrown at it. But general relativity may be incomplete.
Another possibility: A mysterious repulsive force permeates every point in the universe. This dark energy, if revealed, would be instant Nobel Prize fodder, Kamionkowski said.
"This is the one a lot of people would bet on," said David Spergel, an astrophysicist at Princeton University. "It's where I'd put most of my money."
Beyond these two possibilities, there are a "whole bunch of crazy ideas," Kamionkowski said. Spergel called most of these notions "intellectual aardvarks," saying, "They look beautiful only to their mothers." One such idea posits that the visible universe - what we think of as everything - is only one part of a far larger cosmos.
Combined with the Dark Energy Survey, three other projects coming online will further explore cosmic acceleration. Atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii, a camera at the Subaru Telescope is mapping galaxies in much of the northern sky. And at the South Pole and in Chile, two telescopes will take another tack, peering at the glow left over from the Big Bang. Studying this "cosmic background radiation" should reveal how cosmic acceleration has sped up or slowed down over the 13.7-billion-year history of the universe.
Combining data from all four projects could lead to a big "eureka moment," said Kamionkowski, a day the world's puzzled cosmologists would welcome.
"We don't know what makes up three quarters of the universe," Spergel said. "It's a little embarrassing."
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KICP Members: Joshua A. Frieman
Scientific projects: Dark Energy Survey (DES)
Fermilab-University investigators receive $225,000 in collaborative seed grants
Fermilab, August 7, 2013
Three teams of University and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory researchers - one group that includes a researcher from Argonne National Laboratory - recently received $225,000, collectively, in Strategic Collaborative Initiative (SCI) seed grants from the University following a rigorous competition managed by Fermilab and the University. One of the teams received second-year funding. The FY 2013 recipients include:
- "An advanced, five orders of magnitude dynamic range, wafer-scale pixel system for X-ray science", University of Chicago Investigator: John Keith Moffat, Louis Block Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Fermilab Investigator: Grzegorz Deptuch, Engineer IV, Particle Physics Division; Argonne Investigator: Robert Bradford, Assistant Physicist, X-ray Science Division.
- "Development of low noise electronics for the first direct Dark Matter search using CCDs" (funded for a second year), University of Chicago Investigator: Paolo Privitera, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics; Fermilab Investigators: Juan Estrada, Scientist II, Participles Physics Division and Gustavo Cancelo, Engineer IV, Scientific Computing Division.
- "SCENE: SCintillation Efficiency of Noble Elements", University of Chicago Investigator: Luca Grandi, Assistant Professor of Physics; Fermilab Investigator: Stephen Pordes, Scientist II, Particle Physics Division.
The Strategic Collaborative Initiatives Program began in 2006 when the University renewed its contract with the DOE to manage Argonne. The SCI program includes collaborative research projects, strategic joint appointments, and joint institutes. The University extended the program to Fermilab when it became co-manager of the lab in 2007.
KICP Members: Luca Grandi; Paolo Privitera
B-mode polarization spotted in cosmic microwave background
Physics World, July 25, 2013
The South Pole Telescope (SPT) has made the first detection of a subtle twist in light from the cosmic microwave background (CMB), known as B-mode polarization. The signal, the existence of which has been long predicted, paves the way for a definitive test of inflation - a key theory in the Big Bang model of the universe.
"While this effect was fully expected, its detection is a milestone event in the use of the CMB to probe our universe," says Chuck Bennett, a leading expert in CMB observation based at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, US, who was not involved with the study. "It is solid research and I believe the result."
Often called the afterglow of the Big Bang, the CMB is thought to have originated some 380,000 years into the life of the universe when neutral atoms first formed and space became transparent to light. Roughly speaking, it consists of microwaves with a temperature of about three kelvin, but it also contains details that have helped to refine our understanding of the early universe. The most noticeable of these details are variations in temperature of about 100 μK, which reveal density fluctuations in the early universe - the seeds of the stars and galaxies that we see today.
Polarized by scattering
The CMB does not only contain variations in temperature, however. Its radiation was scattered towards us from the universe's earliest atoms in the same way that blue light is scattered towards us from the atoms in the sky. And in the same way that the blue light from the sky is polarized - a fact you can check by wearing polarized sunglasses - so too is the light from the CMB polarized. Variations in CMB polarization were first detected in 2002 by the DASI interferometer in Antarctica and helped cosmologists understand the dynamics of the early universe.
These polarization variations were known as E-mode or gradient variations because they describe how the magnitude of polarization changes over the CMB. But there are even subtler variations known as B-mode variations, which describe the rotation or "curl" of CMB polarization. The majority of B-mode polarization is produced by galaxies acting as gravitational lenses, twisting the E-polarized light on its 14-billion-year journey from the other side of the observable universe. It is incredibly faint, producing temperature variations of about 0.4 μK and accounting for just one part in 10 million in the CMB temperature distribution. "B-mode polarization is very difficult to measure," says Duncan Hanson, a member of the SPT team who is based at McGill University in Canada.
The SPT has managed to detect B-mode polarization largely thanks to improvements in detector technology. Although the detection will probably have little application, it opens new doors in experimental cosmology. With more precision, B-mode signals could help cosmologists place tougher constraints on neutrino masses, which cannot be predicted in the Standard Model of particle physics.
But the biggest prize would be using B-mode signals to uncover evidence of primordial gravitational waves - gargantuan ripples in space-time. Such ripples are predicted to have been generated in inflation, a brief period prior to the formation of the CMB when the universe is thought to have undergone rapid expansion and given birth to large-scale structures.
Although most cosmologists today believe in inflation, the theory lacks crucial details such as how it started and stopped and there has been no way to test it. A detection of primordial gravitational waves would be strong evidence for the existence of inflation, which was first proposed back in 1980 by the American physicist Alan Guth.
"This possibility of detecting B modes from gravitational waves is a remarkable enough possibility that it is driving numerous experimental efforts," says cosmologist Arthur Kosowsky at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, US. "SPT is the first to detect any B modes, [and now] several other experiments are in hot pursuit, so this is the first leg in what is shaping up to be an exciting race to the finish line over the next decade."
Others are looking
Gravitational-wave B modes could be detected by the European Space Agency's Planck observatory, which orbits the Earth, although the toughest competition will come from the BICEP telescope, which sits alongside the SPT, or the POLARBEAR or ACT telescopes in northern Chile. If the discovery is made by one of the ground-based telescopes it would continue the tradition of ground-based experimental cosmology firsts that began with the discovery of the CMB, made by the American astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson with the horn antenna at Bell Labs in Holmdel Township in New Jersey, US, in 1964.
"Results come out from space, and there's lots of press and beautiful results, and the ground-based work tends to get forgotten," says John Carlstrom, the principle investigator on the SPT team who is based at the University of Chicago in Illinois, US. "But the ground-based telescopes, balloons and short-duration flights are an extremely important part of the [experimental] program and have led the way consistently since the beginning. And they still do."
The discovery is described in the preprint arXiv:1307.5830.
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KICP Members: John E. Carlstrom
Scientific projects: South Pole Telescope (SPT)
Polarization detected in Big Bang's echo
Nature, July 25, 2013
B-mode signal provides a way for astronomers to calculate neutrino masses.
Astronomers have detected a long-predicted polarization signal in the ripples of the Big Bang. The signal, known as B-mode polarization, is caused by the gravitational tug of matter on microwave photons left over from the Big Bang.
Its detection, posted this week to the arXiv preprint server and made by a microwave telescope at the South Pole, raises hopes that the signal can be used to map out the matter content of the Universe and determine the masses of the three types of neutrinos - in effect, using astronomy to achieve a key goal of particle physics. The detection also suggests that it might be possible to detect another type of B-mode, which would be evidence that the Universe, in the moment after the Big Bang, underwent a wrenching expansion known as inflation.
"The reason no one's been able to see this before is that it is a very small signal - about 1 part in 10 million," says Duncan Hanson, an astrophysicist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who led the work, which used ultrasensitive microwave receivers on the 10-metre South Pole Telescope (SPT). In comparison, the first measurements of ripples in the cosmic microwave background, released in 1992 by researchers using the NASA Cosmic Background Explorer satellite, was sensitive to differences of 4 parts in 100,000.
Other instruments are also seeking to detect B-modes, including the POLARBEAR experiment and the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT), both in Chajnantor, Chile.
"They beat us, and hats off to them," says Lyman Page, an astronomer at Princeton University in New Jersey and principal investigator for the ACT. "It's intrinsically a neat signal and we all believe it will become an important tool for measuring the contents of the Universe."
David Spergel, a theoretical astrophysicist also at Princeton, agrees. "It's the first time polarization has been used to trace out large-scale structure in the Universe," he says.
The SPT was switched on in 2007 and has used the cosmic microwave background to map out the positions of galaxies and star clusters. Its sensitive microwave receivers were installed in 2012 and were able to detect variations in the B-mode signal across very small scales on the sky, says John Carlstrom, an astrophysicist at the University of Chicago in Illinois and principal investigator of the SPT. To use the signal to pin down the masses of neutrinos, which make up an unknown proportion of the matter being mapped, astronomers will have to survey a patch of sky much larger than the 100 square degrees mapped by the SPT. Still, Carlstrom says it is not implausible that telescopes will determine the neutrino mass in the next few years, before planned particle-physics experiments attempt to do the same thing with beams of neutrinos on Earth.
Yet the ultimate goal of the microwave-polarization experiments is not to do particle physics but cosmology. They are chasing a different class of ‘primordial’ B-modes, which are thought to have been generated by the fast expansion of space during inflation. Any detection would be a definitive confirmation of inflation - one of the core theories of cosmology - and would fix its energy scale, which would be useful to physicists working to develop theories of quantum gravity. But primordial B-modes would exist as tiny variations on large scales of more than 1 degree across - too large for the SPT to find statistical significance with the relatively small patch of sky it surveyed. The European Space Agency's Planck satellite, which surveys the whole sky, might be able to make them out. It is also possible that they will be discernible in smaller data sets such as the SPT's once the gravitational B-modes have been mapped and removed, to potentially reveal any primordial signal beneath. The latest observation from the SPT suggests that this approach to detecting B-modes is a good prospect, says Spergel. "It's a good sign that they've measured this from the ground."
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KICP Members: John E. Carlstrom
Scientific projects: South Pole Telescope (SPT)
Angela Olinto's cosmic needle in a haystack
American Association for the Advancement of Science, June 13, 2013
When Angela Olinto was 20 years old, and the top student at the Pontifícia Universidade Catolica in Rio de Janeiro in her native Brazil, she came down with a serious inflammatory disease called polymyositis, which weakens the skeletal muscles, and can be fatal.
How did Olinto spend what she thought could be her last year on Earth? She launched a full-bore effort to get into the physics graduate program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Consider that a glimpse into the character of Olinto, who chairs the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, and was named an AAAS Fellow in 2012.
Olinto has had one recurrence of polymyositis since college, and still lives with its threat. "I got a bit lucky," she says. "I am very impressed when I think about it, though. What was I thinking? If you think you only have a year left to live, are you going to spend it writing essays, doing exams and applying to graduate school, or are you going to go sit on a beach somewhere?"
That ability to focus on the task at hand, no matter what else is going on, serves Olinto well in her specialty, the study of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays, which is a little like looking for a needle in a haystack - if the haystack were as big as all outdoors. These tiny space invaders, nuclei packing energy greater than 10^18 electron volts (eV), come from outside our galaxy, from hundreds of millions or billions of light years away.
Their exact origin is one of the intriguing mysteries about ultra-high-energy cosmic rays. Supernova explosions of dying stars in our own galaxy are thought to produce less energetic cosmic rays, but "we know supernovae are not the accelerator" for ultra-high-energy particles, Olinto says. She is part of a U. of C. team that has shown that "baby" pulsars could be the source of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays, but only during the first year of their lives.
Even though cosmic rays break up in the Earth's atmosphere, the "daughter" (or secondary) particles are still powerful enough to pass through our bodies. Their power to change genetic material may have played a role in evolution.
Why should we care about something we can't see or feel? For one thing, if we ever want to travel beyond our planet, we will have to know how to protect ourselves against cosmic rays. In outer space, over time, their radiation can cause serious damage to human beings, Olinto says.
The real potential of cosmic rays for science, though, lies in having a chance to study super-energetic ones like the so-called "oh my God particle," the most powerful cosmic ray ever observed, in Utah in 1991, which registered energy of 3.2 x 10^20 eV, tens of millions of times more powerful than anything scientists can now create in a man-made accelerator.
"Nobody expected particles that energetic to exist," Olinto says. Discovering particles with even higher energies could yield exponential advances in scientists' understanding of how the universe works, she says.
"The greater the energy, the more interesting the physics becomes. We don't know if nature can actually reach [even higher] energies [with] an accelerator. We do know 'the Big Bang' had that energy. These are questions we can only answer if we have huge volumes [of cosmic rays] to look at."
Cosmic rays at energy levels of 10^19 eV hit the Earth at a rate of only about one per square kilometer per year. For particles with energy above 10^20 eV, it's more like one per square kilometer per century. "The higher the energy, the rarer they are," Olinto says.
So the greater the area an observatory covers, the better the chance of "capturing" a really interesting particle. In the past, large collectors have been deployed over vast territories to catch "secondary" particles that rain down on Earth, each bearing a portion of the original energy from "primary" cosmic rays that have broken up in our atmosphere.
Olinto has played a key role in the evolution of cosmic ray detectors. She is part of the international collaboration of nearly 500 scientists from 18 countries at the Pierre Auger Observatory in western Argentina.
The Auger Observatory is a hybrid system of 1,600 huge water tanks spread out over an area the size of Rhode Island, and optical fluorescence detectors, which together document the activity of high-energy particles and the "air showers" that fall out from them.
Olinto led the design of Auger North, a similar but much larger collector that was planned in Colorado, but that project fell to funding cuts during the recent recession - a tremendous disappointment, she says now.
Olinto didn't sit around moping about the loss of Auger North, though, notes Michael Turner, a professor at the University of Chicago and director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics there. Instead, "she put together plans for the largest cosmic-ray detector ever," Turner says.
Olinto is part of a group working to put an "extreme universe space observatory" on the Japanese Experiment Module, which is already on the International Space Station.
The new telescope, JEM-EUSO, will point not toward space, but toward the Earth, monitoring the atmosphere from above. "The atmosphere is really the detector," Olinto says. Lasers fired from the ground will see what the telescope is seeing as the ISS passes overhead.
As the "principal investigator" for the U.S. team in the collaboration, and a theorist herself, Olinto must engage experimental scientists in defining goals, and "get this guy off the ground" by 2017. "The bigger the telescope, the more events you can see," she says, but bigger is also more expensive - so goal-setting will be a key part of the effort.
For Olinto, the 'wow' part of her job is the fact that actual matter is coming from another galaxy, but the possibility that these extremely energetic cosmic rays might also be carrying new understandings for scientists about how the universe works intrigues her, too.
"Scientists are very curious," she says. "We might be curious about something that looks completely irrelevant, and it turns out to be a really amazing thing. Or it could be irrelevant. We don't know. If we knew, we wouldn't be looking at it."
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KICP Members: Angela V. Olinto; Michael S. Turner
Clarence Chang to receive DOE's Early Career Research Program Funding
DOE's Office of Science, May 8, 2013
WASHINGTON, DC - DOE's Office of Science today announced that 61 scientists from across the nation will receive up to $15.3 million in funding for research as part of DOE's Early Career Research Program. The effort, now in its fourth year, is designed to bolster the nation's scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.
"By providing support to the most creative and productive researchers in their early career years, this program is helping to build and sustain America's science workforce," said Patricia M. Dehmer, Acting Director of DOE's Office of Science. "We congratulate this year's winners on having competed successfully for these very selective awards, and we look forward to following their accomplishments over the next five years."
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KICP Members: Clarence L. Chang
Scientific projects: South Pole Telescope (SPT)
New dark matter detector begins search for invisible particles
The University of Chicago News Office, May 7, 2013
Scientists heard their first pops last week in an experiment that searches for signs of dark matter in the form of tiny bubbles.
They will need to analyze them further in order to discern whether dark matter caused any of the COUPP-60 experiment's first bubbles at the SNOLAB underground science laboratory in Ontario, Canada. Dark matter accounts for nearly 90 percent of all matter in the universe, yet it is invisible to telescopes.
"Our goal is to make the most sensitive detector to see signals of particles that we don't understand," said Hugh Lippincott, a postdoctoral scientist with Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Lippincott has spent much of the past several months leading the installation of the one-of-a-kind detector at SNOLAB, 1.5 miles underground.
COUPP, or the Chicagoland Observatory for Underground Particle Physics, is a dark-matter experiment funded by the Department of Energy's Office of Science. Fermilab managed the assembly and installation of the experiment's detector. Leading the experiment is Juan Collar of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago.
"Operation of COUPP-60 at SNOLAB is the culmination of a decade of work at the University of Chicago and Fermilab," said Collar, an associate professor in physics. "This device has the potential to become the most sensitive dark matter detector in the world, for both modes of interaction expected from Weakly Interacting Massive Particles."
The COUPP-60 detector is a jar filled with 60 kilograms of purified water and CF3I - an ingredient found in fire extinguishers. The liquid in the detector is kept at a temperature and pressure slightly above the boiling point, but it requires an extra bit of energy to actually form a bubble. When a passing particle enters the detector and disturbs an atom in the clear liquid, it provides that energy.
Dark matter particles, which scientists think rarely interact with other matter, should form individual bubbles in the COUPP-60 tank.
"The events are so rare, we're looking for a couple of events per year," Lippincott said.
Other, more common and interactive particles such as neutrons are more likely to leave a trail of multiple bubbles as they pass through.
Over the next few months, scientists will analyze the bubbles that form in their detector to test how well COUPP-60 is working and to determine whether they see signs of dark matter. One of the advantages of the detector is that it can be filled with a different liquid, if scientists decide they would like to alter their techniques.
"We are already working on a 500-kilogram chamber, to be installed in the same site starting in 2015," Collar said.
The COUPP-60 detector is the latest addition to a suite of dark-matter experiments running at SNOLAB. Scientists run dark matter experiments underground to shield them from a distracting background of other particles that constantly shower Earth from space. Dark matter particles can move through the mile and a half of rock under which the laboratory is buried, whereas most other particles cannot.
Scientists further shield the COUPP-60 detector from neutrons and other particles by submersing it in 7,000 gallons of water.
Scientists first proposed the existence of dark matter in the 1930s, when they discovered that visible matter could not account for the rotational velocities of galaxies. Other evidence, such as gravitational lensing that distorts the view of faraway stars and the inability to explain how other galaxies hold together if not for the mass of dark matter, have improved scientists' case. Astrophysicists think dark matter accounts for about a quarter of the matter and energy in the universe. But no one has conclusively observed dark matter particles.
The COUPP experiment includes scientists, technicians and students from UChicago, Indiana University South Bend, Northwestern University, University of Valencia, Virginia Tech, Fermilab, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and SNOLAB.
- This article was adapted from a Fermilab announcement:
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KICP Members: Juan I. Collar
Scientific projects: Chicagoland Observatory for Underground Particle Physics (COUPP)
Michael S. Turner, The Nora and Edward Ryerson Lecture: Quarks and the Cosmos
The University of Chicago News Office, May 2, 2013
Pioneering University of Chicago cosmologist Michael S. Turner focuses his remarks on "the Chicago School of Cosmology," from Edwin Hubble and George Ellery Hale to the present. Hubble, SB 1910, PhD 1917, discovered that the universe consists of billions of galaxies and that it has been expanding since it began in a big bang. Hale was the first chairman of the University's Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. He also founded Yerkes Observatory, which under his leadership developed the big reflecting telescopes that are the workhorses of optical astronomy today, making discoveries from the expanding universe to planets orbiting other stars. Turning to more recent times, Turner discusses efforts that started in the 1980s at UChicago to establish the new field of particle astrophysics and cosmology. At that time, the Chicago School, consisting primarily of the late David Schramm, Edward "Rocky" Kolb, the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy and Astrophysics, and Turner, was alone in pushing this idea. "Today this idea that there are deep connections between the very big and the very small is universally accepted, has propelled the field to its current prominence, and underpins our understanding of the universe," Turner said. "As we say at Chicago, ideas matter!" The Ryerson Lecture grew out of a 1972 bequest to the University by Nora and Edward L. Ryerson, a former chairman of the board of trustees. The lecture honors excellence in academic pursuits. A faculty committee selects the Ryerson Lecturer based on research contributions of lasting significance.
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KICP Members: Michael S. Turner
Alumni Award winners include Nobelist James Cronin
The University of Chicago News Office, April 18, 2013
Nobel laureate James Cronin, SM'53, PhD'55, will receive the Alumni Medal, the highest honor for a UChicago alumnus, while 13 others will be recognized for their career accomplishments during Alumni Weekend.
Cronin shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 1980 for showing that the laws of nature operate differently on matter and antimatter - a discovery that opened an entirely new research direction for particle physics. More recently, Cronin led the effort to build the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina. The Auger collaboration has become the most successful cosmic ray observatory and has inspired more than 400 scientists in 17 countries to explore this frontier of knowledge. A professor emeritus in Astronomy and Astrophysics, Physics, and the College, Cronin is also a dedicated professor, winning the Quantrell Award for Undergraduate Teaching in 1994.
The Alumni Medal recognizes achievement of an exceptional nature in any field, vocational or voluntary, covering an entire career. In addition to the Alumni Medal, the University will recognize distinguished alumni and faculty members who have made exceptional contributions to UChicago, to their professions, and to their communities, across six different categories.
This year's 14 Alumni Award recipients include a global economist governing the Banco de Mexico, one of the developers of video game franchise Halo, a renowned statistician in both the sports and political fronts, and a philanthropist working to create a tuberculosis-free world.
The University of Chicago Alumni Association and the Alumni Board of Governors will hold the 72nd annual Alumni Awards Ceremony at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 8 in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. The ceremony is free and open to the public.
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KICP Members: James W. Cronin
Scientific projects: Pierre Auger Observatory (AUGER)
Rocky Kolb appointed next dean of Division of the Physical Sciences
The University of Chicago News Office, April 12, 2013
Prof. Edward "Rocky" Kolb has been appointed dean of the Division of the Physical Sciences for a five-year term, President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Thomas F. Rosenbaum announced. Kolb's appointment will take effect July 1.
Kolb is the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor of Astronomy & Astrophysics and the College and former Chair of Astronomy & Astrophysics. He is a member of the Enrico Fermi Institute and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics. In 1983, Kolb was a founding leader of the Theoretical Astrophysics Group and in 2004 the founding Director of the Particle Astrophysics Center at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. He presently serves on the boards of the Giant Magellan Telescope and the Adler Planetarium.
"In filling this position, we sought an outstanding scholar and leader to work with the faculty of the Division to fulfill its intellectual and educational aspirations, as well as to become a significant contributor to defining the academic directions of the University as a whole," wrote Zimmer and Rosenbaum in a joint e-mail to the division faculty. An elected advisory committee of division faculty members recommended Kolb for the post.
"For over a century, the faculty, staff, and students of the Physical Sciences Division have led just about every major advance in the physical sciences," Kolb said. "As dean, I plan to enlarge and support the activities of the Division and keep us at the leading edge."
Kolb succeeds Robert A. Fefferman, the Max Mason Distinguished Service Professor of Mathematics, who is returning full time to the faculty. Zimmer and Rosenbaum praised Fefferman for leading the Division with dedication and accomplishment over the last decade.
"Bob systematically improved every department in the Physical Sciences Division over the last decade through strategic faculty hiring, an emphasis on pedagogical excellence, and attention to intellectual culture," they wrote. "He has been a major proponent of scientific outreach and diversity, leading both through the creation of innovative programs and personal example."
A native of New Orleans, Kolb earned his bachelor's degree from the University of New Orleans in 1973 and his doctorate in physics from the University of Texas, Austin, in 1978.
Kolb's research applies fundamental particle physics and general relativity theory to the very early universe, including cosmic inflation models, gravitational production of particles, particle dark matter, ultra-high energy cosmic rays, and high-energy neutrino astronomy. In addition to more than 200 peer-reviewed papers, he co-authored The Early Universe, the standard textbook on particle physics and cosmology. In 2010, the American Astronomical Society and the American Institute for Physics recognized his research, along with his colleague Michael Turner's work, with the 2010 Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics.
Kolb is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He was the recipient of the 2003 Oersted Medal of the American Association of Physics Teachers for notable contributions to the teaching of physics, a 1993 Quantrell Prize for undergraduate teaching excellence at the University, and the 2009 Excellence in Teaching Award from the University's Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies.
In great demand as an international scientific and public lecturer, Kolb has been a Harlow Shapley Visiting Lecturer with the American Astronomical Society since 1984. His book for the general public, Blind Watchers of the Sky, received the 1996 Emme Award of the American Aeronautical Society. In the autumn of 2012 he was in residence at the University of Heidelberg as the recipient of the J. Hans D. Jensen Prize.
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KICP Members: Edward W. Kolb
Spotlight Roundtable: Witnessing Starbursts in Young Galaxies
The Kavli Foundation, March 13, 2013
Three leading scientists discuss how the world's most powerful radio telescope revealed that the most vigorous bursts of star birth in the cosmos took place much earlier than previously thought.
IN THE EARLY UNIVERSE, new stars were bursting to life at rates far higher than we see today. The Milky Way today may fire up one new star every year; but billions of years ago, a subset of galaxies in the relatively young universe were producing new stars at a rate of 1,000 per year.
Now, a multi-national team of astronomers has found that these distant, dusty galaxies were churning out stars much earlier than once believed - as early as one billion years after the Big Bang, nearly 13 billion years ago. Their study was published online on March 13 by the journal Nature. (Press releases: California Institute of Technology, ESO, KICP/University of Chicago, University of Arizona)
Measuring just how far away these galaxies are, and examining the rapid star formation going on inside them, was no trivial feat. Armed with a catalog of galaxies discovered by the South Pole Telescope (SPT), the astronomers used some fortuitous natural phenomena and the great resolving power of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, or ALMA - an array of radio antennas situated on a high plateau in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile - to learn about some of the most distant star-forming galaxies.
Three members of the team spoke recently with The Kavli Foundation in a roundtable discussion about their discovery and what they plan next. The participants:
* John E. Carlstrom - Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Astrophysics as well as Physics at the University of Chicago, and Deputy Director of the UChicago's Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP). Prof. Carlstrom is an observational cosmologist who studies the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). He is also leader of the 10-meter South Pole Telescope project, which recently completed a survey of 2,500 square degrees of the sky, and is now conducting a survey of the polarization of the CMB.
* Dan P. Marrone - Assistant Professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona. Prof. Marrone is interested in galaxy clusters, galaxy formation in the early universe, and the physics of the supermassive black hole in our galaxy, Sagittarius A*.
* Joaquin D. Vieira - Postdoctoral Scholar at the California Institute of Technology and a member of Caltech's Observational Cosmology Group. Dr. Vieira is interested in studying galaxy evolution at very high redshifts, the first stars and galaxies, and the evolution of large-scale structures in the universe. He is the leader of the group studying the galaxies discovered by the South Pole Telescope.
The following is an edited transcript with remarks added by the participants.
THE KAVLI FOUNDATION: About a third of the galaxies that you observed in your study existed at extremely early times, when the universe was only about one billion years old. You must all have mental picture of what the early universe could have been like. How did your findings change your views about what was actually going on then?
JOAQUIN VIEIRA: My expectations before this study were more focused on what I thought we'd be able to detect, rather than what I thought the universe was like back then. We knew we'd be excited to find anything at a redshift greater than four.
To understand what that redshift measurement means, it's important to understand, by the time it reaches us, the wavelength of light from very distant galaxies is stretched by the expansion of the universe. The result is that the light spectrum of these galaxies - that is, the rainbow of colors that make up the overall light emitted by each galaxy - has been shifted toward the redder end of the electromagnetic spectrum, from the part that's visible to our eyes toward longer wavelengths of light that make up the infrared part.
By measuring how much the light from these galaxies has been shifted toward the infrared, we can calculate how far away they are and how far back in time they existed. That's where the word "redshift" comes from, and higher numbers in the redshift scale correspond to farther distances from Earth, and farther back in time.
Now, a redshift of 4 corresponds to a time more than 12 billion years ago, when the universe was about 1.6 billion years old. That light has been traveling for 12 billion light years and when we observe those galaxies, we aren't seeing them as they are, but as they were. Observing very distant galaxies is a way for us to observe the Universe in its infancy - to look back in time.
TKF: But ALMA has changed all that.
VIEIRA: It's changed everything. After making our observations with ALMA, we doubled the number of these dusty starburst galaxies above a redshift of four. When we first started planning the redshift survey with ALMA, we had already tried with four other observatories to measure redshifts for the SPT sources - and it was very difficult and very frustrating. We basically had no success at all. We were thinking that if we got just a handful of redshifts with ALMA, we would be really lucky. But in the end we got redshifts for 90-percent of the sources in our survey catalog - out to higher redshifts then we really thought was possible.
JOHN CARLSTROM: We did expect to see bright galaxies in the South Pole Telescope survey, but not the dusty star-forming galaxies that we found. Instead, we thought we'd detect the very bright centers of galaxies where jets of radiation are emitted from black holes. These phenomena, often referred to as radio sources, are pretty well known.
Before our observations with ALMA, Joaquin had catalogued galaxies detected by the South Pole Telescope. When he analyzed the spectra of these objects, he discovered that some of the sources appeared to be dominated by emission from dust. They were not in line with what you would expect from the well known population of radio sources. This was the first clue we were onto something interesting. Then Joaquin discovered there were no counterparts to these galaxies catalogued by infrared surveys of the sky. That was baffling. It meant that they had escaped detection in the infrared surveys. No one had predicted that we would see such a luminous population of dusty galaxies so far back.
DAN MARRONE: I agree with Joaquin and John that our ability to get redshifts for these galaxies was a surprise - and that's a testament to the power of ALMA. Previously, we had tried making observations at the same wavelengths with the southernmost observatory available, the Submillimeter Array in Hawaii, and we pointed the radio dishes basically at the horizon to watch these galaxies just barely come up over the dirt. We were able to see them, but we had no real hope of getting redshifts for them. We still couldn't really figure out how far away they were. We needed something like ALMA to pull that off.
TKF: John, I wanted to come back to something that you said earlier. You said it was a surprise for you to find these dusty star-forming galaxies at such early times. When we talk about "dusty, star-forming galaxies" do we mean galaxies that show elements other than hydrogen and helium? Like iron, carbon, silicon, etc.?
CARLSTROM: By "dusty" I do mean that. When stars form, they quickly enrich the gas surrounding them with heavier elements. And those elements then form dust particles, and the dust particles absorb the starlight and then re-radiate that as a thermal emission at much longer wavelengths. We refer to that thermal radiation at longer wavelengths as "dusty emission" because it's coming from the dust. But it is actually energy that is generated by the stars that form.
TKF: These early dusty galaxies were churning out stars, as your study says, at a rate of 1,000 stars per year - compared to about one star per year for the Milky Way and other galaxies in modern times. Why do we think that star formation was so much more vigorous in the early universe?
MARRONE: In the early universe, in general, a much larger fraction of the mass of galaxies was in gas. That alone pushes up the star formation rate.
The universe also was much smaller back then, so galaxies were much closer together. As a result, we expect that they were much more likely to have interacted with one another. And collisions between two galaxies will trigger bursts of star formation. Today, because of the expansion of the universe, galaxies are further apart on average and these interactions are much less common.
TKF: In your study, you note that these early galaxies you observed are shining with the energy of a trillion suns but have masses that are much less than that. This suggests that stars burned brighter back then. Was this finding a surprise, and what does it tell us about the character of stars at these early times?
VIEIRA: When stars form, they come in a wide range of masses, from much less than the Sun to tens of times more massive than the Sun. The most massive stars are incredibly bright, but they live very short lives before they become supernovae. The energy output we measure from these galaxies shows us that the most massive stars created in the starburst have not yet used up their fuel and exploded, though they will do so relatively soon.
TKF: The team took advantage of two natural phenomena to observe these galaxies in detail: one was that their light was magnified by the gravity of closer objects - a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. But there was a second phenomenon that’s a bit harder to understand, and it has to do with the fact that dusty galaxies are not dimmer the farther away they are. Why is this the case?
MARRONE: At wavelengths near 1 millimeter, the spectrum of dust is very interesting. It gets brighter very quickly as you look at shorter and shorter wavelengths. For example, the SPT observes these galaxies at 2 millimeters (and 1.4 and 3). If you look at a dusty galaxy at 2 millimeters and 1 millimeter wavelengths, it will be about 10 times brighter at 1 millimeter than at it is at 2 millimeters wavelength. That's for looking at the same galaxy (at the same redshift). Now imagine you look at two different galaxies at two different redshifts, but at the same wavelength. The light from the higher redshift (more distant) galaxy will have been stretched more, so you measure the light at, say, 2 millimeters wavelength, but the original wavelength will have been not 1 millimeter, but maybe 0.5 millimeters. It was 100 times brighter when it was emitted. Of course, because it's further away it looks fainter, just like a light bulb would look fainter across the street instead of in your house. But starting out so much brighter almost perfectly cancels that effect.
This is incredibly valuable for us. You have all these dusty galaxies existing throughout the history of the universe, and no matter how far away they are they're not really getting much dimmer when we look at these wavelengths. So, unlike at optical wavelengths, where distant galaxies get dimmer and dimmer and the deep sky ends up looking black, light from these dusty galaxies creates a mostly diffuse and flat infrared sky. And we call that the Cosmic Infrared Background.
TKF: And that's where ALMA comes in. It's used to measure the spectra of these dusty galaxies and determine how far away they actually are.
MARRONE: That's right. Because these dusty galaxies do not get any dimmer as they get farther away, we actually don't know where they are. But ALMA's sensitivity in measuring the spectra of each of these objects allows us to measure how much those spectra are shifted toward the redder end of the spectrum - and obtain precise redshifts.
TKF: Tell me about ALMA. How would you describe it?
CARLSTROM: ALMA is like a very high-powered telescope. Imagine you're looking through a large telescope; you need a finder scope on the side to see where you're pointing. That's because the field of view of the big telescope is so tiny. ALMA, like the big telescope, gives you this incredibly detailed image of whatever you're looking at, plus this beautiful spectroscopic capability. But it only looks a very tiny field of view.
TKF: So ALMA allows you to look much closer at galaxies already identified by the South Pole Telescope, which is being used to survey a large fraction of the sky, correct?
CARLSTROM: Yes. ALMA is most powerful when it's teamed up with other observatories that conduct surveys of huge swaths of the sky to identify interesting targets worthy of more detailed examination. It enables a detailed examination of extremely distant objects because it operates as an interferometer. That means its effective resolving power isn't equal to that of one antenna, but to an antenna that is the diameter of the entire array. So ALMA's 12-meter antennas, collectively, get orders of magnitude higher angular resolution than what you would get from the single 10-meter South Pole Telescope. As a result, ALMA gives us very, very detailed images.
TKF: So ALMA's role here was critical.
CARLSTOM: ALMA is designed to detect the exact same wavelengths of light in which the dusty galaxies were discovered by the South Pole Telescope. As a result, there was no doubt ALMA was seeing the same galaxies. Also, ALMA gives us very high spectral resolution, so we were able to analyze the light from these galaxies with great precision to identify carbon monoxide and other molecules. That told us about what’s in those galaxies, but more importantly for our study, that level of detail allowed us to measure the shifting of that spectra toward the red part of the spectrum - the redshift. And measuring changes in this part of the spectrum is the way we could tell how far away these objects are.
TKF: The ALMA observatory isn't completed. Right now it has an array of about 16 antennas, but within a year or so it will have 66. How will this help you in the future?
MARRONE: With little more than a dozen antennas at ALMA, we were able to make very detailed images of these galaxies - and that was after just 2 minutes of observations per galaxy. When we were trying this with The Submillimeter Array in Hawaii - which has only eight antennas, each only half the size as the ones at ALMA - we were observing each galaxy for a couple of hours. Even then, we were not getting anything like the detail that ALMA gave us, though this is a little unfair to the SMA, since it had to look so low on the horizon to see our sources. When ALMA is completed, the observations we obtained for this first study are just going to be trivial. You almost feel bad using ALMA to look at them - the exposures are so fast. You want to give ALMA more of a challenge.
CARLSTROM: I would add that a key science goal for the James Webb Space Telescope is to study the very first galaxies that emerged in the universe. This telescope is regarded as the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, and it's anticipated for launch in 2018. The studies we're doing with ALMA now are allowing us to get to a jumpstart on that whole quest.
TKF: In a way, what you have is the ultimate zoom camera, letting you see details about the early universe once unimaginable. Now that you've seen what ALMA can do, what are your next steps?
MARRONE: I'd really like to push ALMA to its full potential and examine individual star-forming regions within these galaxies. One of our galaxies, at a redshift of 5.7, is forming stars at a rate per unit area that’s as high as anything we've ever observed in the entire universe. ALMA is going to make it possible for us to pick that apart, to resolve the individual star-forming regions that are giving us those incredible starbursts.
VIEIRA: Now that we have the redshifts for these galaxies, we can dig deeper into the spectra of these galaxies to find out what they're made of; we can do chemistry with them. We have a sample of about 100 galaxies, and so what we want to do is get redshifts for all of them. Then we can map out the redshift distribution of these sources in an unbiased way. We'll be looking at individual spectral lines in detail, and examining the chemical makeup of these galaxies - even from region to region within them. Future studies also will help us answer other important questions, such as how they formed. Did they form through mergers, or through the slow accretion of gas? How many stellar generations reside in these galaxies?
These questions are all really exciting, and answering them is eventually going to change our view of the universe. Right now we've only taken the first step.
- Winter, 2013
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KICP Members: John E. Carlstrom
Scientific projects: South Pole Telescope (SPT)
'Nuisance' data lead to surprising star-birth discovery
The University of Chicago News Office, March 13, 2013
When a batch of bright cosmic objects first appeared in maps in 2008 made with data from the South Pole Telescope, astronomers at the University of Chicago's Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics regarded it only as an unavoidable nuisance.
The light sources interfered with efforts to measure more precisely the cosmic microwave background-the afterglow of the big bang. But the astronomers soon realized that they had made a rare find in South Pole Telescope's large survey of the sky. The spectra of some of the bright objects, which is the rainbow of light they emit, were inconsistent with what astronomers expected from the well-known population of radio galaxies.
Instead they looked like dust-enshrouded, star-forming galaxies. Such galaxies should be easily identified in infrared sky surveys, but there were no known counterparts for what the South Pole Telescope had found. They had to be extremely distant to avoid infrared detection, and therefore extremely luminous. Intrigued, the astronomers performed detailed follow-up imaging of the sources with the new Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile's Atacama Desert. These observations show the dust-filled galaxies were bursting with stars much earlier in cosmic history than previously thought.
Joaquin Vieira, now a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology, leads a team that will report the discovery in the March 13 issue of the journal Nature and in two other papers that will appear in the Astrophysical Journal.
"We have been eagerly waiting for ALMA to be ready so we could conduct these observations," said Vieira, MS'05, PhD'09, who based his doctoral research at UChicago on the discovery of the extragalactic sources. "The sources we discovered with the South Pole Telescope were so far in the southern sky that no telescopes in the Northern Hemisphere could observe them. We are very privileged to be among the first astronomers to use ALMA."
Vieira has supported the South Pole Telescope from the beginning, helping to build the telescope and its camera, said John Carlstrom, S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics at UChicago. "He's been involved from the ground up, or the ice up, if you will," said Carlstrom, who leads the SPT collaboration and is a co-author of the Nature paper.
Prodigious star production
The starburst galaxies produce stars at a prodigious rate, creating the equivalent of a thousand new suns annually. Vieira and his colleagues have found starbursts that were churning out stars when the universe was just a billion years old. Previously astronomers were unsure whether galaxies could form new stars so quickly at this very early point in the history of the universe.
Shining with the energy of a trillion suns or more, these newly discovered galaxies are observed as they were nearly 12 billion years ago, showing us a representative baby picture of the most massive galaxies in Earth's cosmic neighborhood today. "The more distant the galaxy, the further back in time one is looking, so by measuring their distances, we can piece together a timeline of how vigorously the universe was making new stars at different stages of its 13.7-billion-year history," Vieira said.
The astronomers found dozens of these galaxies with the South Pole Telescope, a 10-meter dish in Antarctica that surveys the sky in millimeter-wavelength light (situated between radio and the infrared on the electromagnetic spectrum). The team then took a more detailed look using ALMA in Chile. "These aren't normal galaxies," Vieira said. "They're forming stars at an extraordinary rate when the universe was very young - we were very surprised to find galaxies like this so early in the history of the universe."
The new observations represent some of ALMA's most significant scientific results yet, Vieira said. "We couldn’t have done this without the combination of the South Pole Telescope and ALMA," he added. "ALMA is so sensitive, it is going to change our view of the universe in many different ways."
The astronomers used only 16 of 66 dishes that will eventually come online for ALMA, which is the most powerful telescope observing in millimeter and sub-millimeter wavelengths. ALMA began observing last year.
ALMA data analysis
Analysis of the ALMA data showed that more than 30 percent of the new galaxies existed just a billion years after the big bang. Only nine such galaxies were known previously. The number of such galaxies now has nearly doubled, providing valuable data that will help other researchers constrain and refine computer models of star and galaxy formation in the early universe.
Vieira's team directly determines the distance of these dusty starburst galaxies from emission from their gas and dust itself. Astronomers previously had to rely on a cumbersome combination of indirect optical and radio observations using multiple telescopes to study the galaxies. But ALMA's unprecedented sensitivity and ability to measure spectra enabled the astronomers to make their observations and analyze them directly in one step. As a result, the new distances are more reliable and represent the best sample yet of this population of early galaxies.
The unique properties of these objects also enabled the measurements. First, the observed galaxies happened to be gravitationally lensed - a phenomenon predicted by Einstein in which another galaxy in the foreground bends the light from the background galaxy like a magnifying glass. This lensing effect makes the background galaxies appear brighter, cutting the amount of telescope time needed to observe them by 100 times.
Second, the astronomers took advantage of a fortuitous feature of these galaxies' spectra. Normally, more distant galaxies appear dimmer. But it turns out that the expanding universe shifts the emitted spectra in such a way that the light we receive at millimeter wavelengths is not diminished for sources that are more distant from us. Consequently, the galaxies appear just as bright in these wavelengths no matter their distance.
The new results represent approximately a quarter of the total number of sources that Vieira and his colleagues discovered with the South Pole Telescope. They anticipate finding more of the dusty starburst galaxies and expect some to be from even earlier times in the universe as they continue analyzing their data.
UChicago scientists contributing to the March 13 Nature paper are faculty members John Carlstrom, Mike Gladders and Steve Meyer; senior researchers Bradford Benson, Clarence Chang, Tom Crawford and Kathryn Schaffer; associate fellows Will High, Stephen Hoover, Ryan Keisler and Tom Plagge; associate Steve Padin; research associate Keren Sharon; and graduate students Lindsey Bleem, Monica Mocanu, Tyler Natoli and Kyle Story.
The South Pole Telescope is funded primarily by the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs. Partial support also is provided by the NSF-funded Physics Frontier Center of UChicago's Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, the Kavli Foundation, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
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KICP Members: Bradford A. Benson; John E. Carlstrom; Clarence L. Chang; Thomas M. Crawford; Michael D. Gladders; Fredrick W. High; Stephen Hoover; Ryan Keisler; Stephan S. Meyer; Steve Padin; Tom Plagge; Kathryn K. Schaffer
KICP Students: Lindsey E. Bleem; Laura M Mocanu; Tyler Natoli; Kyle Story
Scientific projects: South Pole Telescope (SPT)
Space station to host new cosmic ray telescope: UChicago's Angela Olinto leads U.S. collaboration on international project
The University of Chicago News Office, March 11, 2013
by Steve Koppes, The University of Chicago News Office
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has awarded $4.4 million to a collaboration of scientists at five United States universities and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center to help build a telescope for deployment on the International Space Station in 2017.
The U.S. collaboration is part of a 13-nation effort to build the 2.5-meter ultraviolet telescope, called the Extreme Universe Space Observatory. UChicago Prof. Angela Olinto leads the U.S. collaboration. The telescope will search for the mysterious source of the most energetic particles in the universe, called ultra high-energy cosmic rays, from the ISS's Japanese Experiment Module. The source of these cosmic rays has remained one of the great mysteries of science since physicist John Linsley discovered them more than 50 years ago. These cosmic rays consist of protons and other subatomic scraps of matter that fly through the universe at almost light speed.
"The science goal is to discover the sources of ultra high-energy cosmic rays by observing their traces in the atmosphere looking 248 miles from the ISS down to the surface," said Olinto, professor in astronomy & astrophysics at the University of Chicago's Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics. In addition to leadership from UChicago, the U.S. collaboration includes scientists at the Colorado School of Mines, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Vanderbilt University, University of California at Berkeley, University of California Los Angeles, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the Marshall Space Flight Center.
A subset of the U.S. institutions will use the NASA grant to build lasers, flashers and monitoring equipment that will be used to calibrate the telescope’s optics from 20 locations around the globe as the ISS passes overhead.
Billions of particles
Ultra high-energy cosmic rays may come from supermassive black holes at the centers of nearby galaxies, or perhaps they are decaying particles left over from the big bang. These rays hit the atmosphere with the energy of a tennis ball traveling at 167 miles an hour. This impact produces a giant cascade of many tens of billions of secondary particles that previously have been observed only from Earth-based detectors.
UChicago has a long history of cosmic-ray research, including the Pierre Auger Observatory, the largest cosmic-ray detector ever built. Auger conducted cosmic ray research at UChicago in 1942, launching hot air balloon experiments from the former site of the University's Stagg Field.
UChicago Nobel laureate James Cronin initiated the Auger project with Alan Watson of the University of Leeds in the early 1990s. They built the observatory in Argentina in collaboration with scientists from 19 countries, who shared construction costs for the $50 million observatory. When Auger's construction was completed in 2008, the observatory consisted of a grid of electronic instruments that covered 3,000 square kilometers, an area more than half of the size of Delaware.
The Auger Observatory began collecting data in 2004. "We have solved many open questions from last century, but we didn't find the source of the highest-energy cosmic rays," Olinto said. The most useful data occur at the very highest energies. Auger detects approximately two of these highest-energy events every month.
But it takes a long time to collect enough of these events to make a map of the sky that indicates more of them are coming from one direction than another. "I wanted to go the next step, which is to make something 10 times bigger than Auger," Olinto said.
Auger combines two techniques for observing cosmic rays. One technique consists mostly of large plastic water tanks, which serve as ground detectors that measure the shape of the shower. Spaced at one-mile intervals, the tanks occasionally intercept a particle from the atmospheric cascade generated by cosmic rays. The particles produce a flash as they cross from air into water. Electronics in the dark tanks detect the light and radios the information to a central station.
The second technique involves four infrared telescopes that detect ultraviolet light emissions generated in the atmosphere by cosmic rays. "You not only see the fluorescence on the ground, but you see the whole shower developing on the atmosphere," Olinto explained.
The Auger telescopes look straight up to the top of the atmosphere, approximately 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) high. "If you go to the International Space Station with the exact same technique and you look down, you can see a lot more of the atmosphere because now you're 400 kilometers up," Olinto said. "With a 60-degree opening angle, which we are designing, you can see instantaneously a hundred times the Auger area."
Olinto views the Extreme Observatory as the first step toward using the entire Earth atmosphere for studying subatomic particle interactions at energies far exceeding what the most powerful man-made accelerator at the Large Hadron Collider can currently produce. "In my opinion, it's the way to the future," she said.
For more information see http://jem-euso.uchicago.edu/.
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KICP Members: Angela V. Olinto
Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to release first results
BBC News Science & Environment, February 18, 2013
The scientist leading one of the most expensive experiments ever put into space says the project is ready to come forward with its first results.
The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) was put on the International Space Station to survey the skies for high-energy particles, or cosmic rays.
Nobel Laureate Sam Ting said the scholarly paper to be published in a few weeks would concern dark matter.
This is the unseen material whose gravity holds galaxies together.
Researchers do not know what form this mysterious cosmic component takes, but one theory points to it being some very weakly interacting massive particle (or Wimp for short).
Although telescopes cannot detect the Wimp, there are high hopes that AMS can confirm its existence and describe some of its properties from indirect measures.
The imminent publication in an as yet undetermined journal will detail the progress of that investigation.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor said the project he first proposed back in the mid-1990s had now reached an important milestone.
"We've waited 18 years to write this paper, and we're now making the final check," he told reporters.
"I would imagine in two or three weeks, we should be able to make an announcement.
"We have six analysis groups to analyse the same results. Physicists as you know - everybody has their own interpretations, and we're now making sure everyone agrees with each other. And this is pretty much done now."
Sam Ting was speaking here in Boston at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
$2bn machine to 'probe the unknown'
His $2bn machine was taken up to the ISS in 2011 - on the final mission of Shuttle Endeavour.
The seven-tonne experiment holds a giant, specially designed magnet that bends the paths of particles that fall on it.
The way they bend reveals their charge, a fundamental property that, together with information about their mass, velocity and energy, garnered from a slew of detectors, tells scientists precisely what they are dealing with.
Prof Ting said that in its first 18 months of operation, AMS had witnessed 25 billion particle events.
Of these, nearly eight billion were fast-moving electrons and their anti-matter counterparts, positrons.
Colliding and annihilating Wimps ought to produce showers of these electrons and positrons. And it is by measuring the ratio of the latter to the former, and the behaviour of any excess across the energy spectrum, which may provide a way into the dark matter problem.
"The smoking gun signature in the positron to electron ratio is a rise and then a dramatic fall. That is the key signature for the dark matter annihilation in our galaxy's halo," observed Prof Michael Turner from the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, University of Chicago. Prof Turner is not part of the AMS Collaboration.
"Also in this energy regime, is there anisotropy? Do the positrons come from a fixed direction or all directions?" Prof Ting pondered to the BBC.
"Dark matter is supposed to be everywhere. So if we see the positrons coming from a particular direction, it means astrophysics like a pulsar (a type of neutron star) is responsible for the signal, not dark matter."
The AMS paper will report the positron-electron ratio in the mass range of 0.5 to 350 Gigaelectronvolts. This covers territory at the top end where some other experiments have already reported tantalising hints of dark matter.
Prof Turner said science was closing in on its quarry.
He predicted the next few years would be remembered as the "decade of the Wimp", and looked forward to dark matter's properties being exposed via a number of investigation strands that included Wimp production at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
"Theory says that this particle might weigh somewhere between 30, 40 and 300 times what the proton does, so somewhere between 30 and maybe 1,000 GeV.
"The LHC can produce particles of that mass, Sam Ting's AMS detector can see particles of that mass annihilating, and then the detectors deep underground are also sensitive to particles of this mass.
"If we get very lucky, if Santa answers our wish-list, we could get a triple signature of the dark matter particle, by seeing the annihilations, by directly detecting it, by producing it at the LHC - all three of these methods are sensitive across the same mass range."
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KICP Members: Michael S. Turner
DarkSide-50 experiment on BBC
BBC World Service, February 6, 2013
BBC World Service gives a tour "inside" the DarkSide-50 detector. The experiment, ready to be assembled at National Laboratory of Gran Sasso, is searching for Dark Matter interactions in a low background two-phase Time Projection Chamber featuring 50 kg of Underground Argon as the sensitive target. To further suppress the background the liquid argon detector will be fully immersed in a liquid scintillator and surrounded by a large water Cherenkov detector working as active vetoes. The commissioning of the detector is expected to start in about two weeks.
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KICP Members: Luca Grandi
Scientific projects: Depleted Argon cryogenic Scintillation and Ionization Detection (DarkSide)
Roundtable Discussion: Are We Closing In On Dark Matter?
Kavli Foundation News, December 17, 2012
As the search for dark matter intensifies, the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago and the National Academy of Sciences organized a colloquium that brings together cosmologists, particle physicists and observational astrophysicists - three fields now united in the hunt to determine what is dark matter.
DARK MATTER IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST MYSTERIES IN MODERN PHYSICS. We believe it makes up about 23 percent of the mass-energy content of the universe, even though we don't know what it is or have yet to directly see it (which is why it's called "dark"). So how can we detect it and when we do, what will it reveal about the universe?
In mid-October, more than 100 cosmologists, particle physicists and astrophysicists gathered for a meeting called Dark Matter Universe: On the Threshold of Discovery at the National Academy of Sciences' Beckman Center in Irvine, CA. Their goal: to take stock of the latest theories and findings about dark matter, assess just how close we are to detecting it and spark cross-disciplinary discussions and collaborations aimed at resolving the dark matter puzzle. Following the meeting, The Kavli Foundation met with three leading participants and organizers of the meeting:
* Michael S. Turner - Rauner Distinguished Service Professor and Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago.
* Edward "Rocky" Kolb - Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, where he is also a member of the Enrico Fermi Institute and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics.
* Maria Spiropulu - Professor of Physics at California Institute of Technology who also works on experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, and a former fellow at the Enrico Fermi Institute.
The following is an edited transcription of the discussion.
THE KAVLI FOUNDATION: This meeting brought together theoretical cosmologists, observational astrophysicists and experimental particle physicists. Why this mix of researchers and why now?
MICHAEL TURNER: Figuring out what is dark matter has become a problem that astrophysicists, cosmologists and particle physicists all want to solve, because dark matter is central to our understanding of the universe. We now have a compelling hypothesis, namely that dark matter is comprised of WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particle), particles that don't radiate light and interact rarely with ordinary matter. After decades of trying to figure out how to test the idea that dark matter is made up of WIMPs, we have three ways to test this hypothesis. Best of all, all three methods are closing in on being able to either confirm or falsify the WIMP. So the stars have truly aligned.
ROCKY KOLB: The title to this meeting is a great answer to your question. It's "On the Threshold of Discovery," and it could happen within the next one or two years. It's so important to get the different communities here - experimentalists working at colliders, people analyzing gamma ray data from space, and those involved in direct detection.
TKF: So dark matter is a mystery that everyone wants to solve.
Michael Turner - Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP) at the University of Chicago, and a theoretical cosmologist trained in both particle physics and astrophysics. Dr. Turner coined the term "dark energy" and helped establish the interdisciplinary field that combines cosmology and elementary particle physics. His research focuses on the earliest moments of creation, and he has made important contributions to inflationary cosmology, particle dark matter and structure formation, the theory of big bang nucleosynthesis, and the nature of dark energy.
TURNER: Ten years ago, I don't think you would've found astronomers, cosmologists, and particle physicists all agreeing that dark matter was really important. And now, they do. And all of them believe we can solve the problem soon. It's wonderful listening to particle physicists explain the evidence for dark matter, and vice versa -astronomers explaining WIMPs as dark matter. At this meeting nobody said, "Oh, I don't really believe in the evidence. Nor did anyone say, "Yikes - a new form of matter. That's crazy."
MARIA SPIROPULU: One important thing we've seen at this meeting is a crossing of professional boundaries that have separated researchers in many different fields in the past. These boundaries have been strict. Cosmologists, astrophysicists and particle physicists, however, have now really started talking to one another about dark matter. We're only beginning and our language - the way speak to each other - is not yet settled so that we completely understand each other; but we are on the threshold of discovering something very important for all of us. This is critical because cosmologists and particle physicists have talked for a long time about how the very big and very small might be linked. And while the particle physicists study the very small with colliders, cosmologists study the galaxies and billions and billions of stars that make up the large-scale structure we see in the universe.
KOLB: Ten years ago, it was "Call me maybe" and now it's ...
TURNER: "Let's do lunch."
SPIROPULU: Yes, it's, "Let's do lunch and talk physics."
TURNER: I do want to make one point: the convergence of inner space and outer space really started in the 1980s. Back then it began with the origin of the baryon asymmetry, the monopole problem and dark matter to a lesser extent. Particle physicists agreed that dark matter was a real problem but said, "The solution could be astrophysics - faint stars, 'Jupiters', black holes and the like." It's been a long road to get to where we are now, namely where we all agree that the most compelling solution is particle dark matter. And even today, the different fields are still, in a sense, getting to know one another.
TKF: Let's cover a few basics. Why is the question of dark matter important?
"Rocky" Kolb - A professor of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University Of Chicago, "Rocky" Kolb is a member of the Enrico Fermi Institute and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, studies the application of elementary-particle physics to the very early Universe. He is the co-author with Michael Turner of The Early Universe, the standard textbook on particle physics and cosmology.
KOLB: As cosmologists, one of our jobs is to understand what the universe is made of. To a good approximation, the galaxies and other structures we see in the universe are made predominantly of dark matter. We have concluded this from a tremendous body of evidence, and now we need to discover what exactly is dark matter. The excitement now is that we are closing in on an answer, and only once in the history of humans will someone discover it. There will be some student or postdoc or experimentalist someplace who is going to look in the next 10 years at their data, and of the seven or so billion people in the world that person will discover what galaxies are mostly made of. It's only going to happen once.
TURNER: The dark matter story started with fragmentary evidence discovered by Fritz Zwicky, a Swiss American. He found that there were not enough stars in the galaxy clusters he observed to hold them together. Slowly, more was understood and finally dark matter became a centerpiece of cosmology. And now, we have established that dark matter is about 23 percent of the universe; ordinary matter is only 4.5 percent; and dark energy is that other 73 percent - which is an even bigger puzzle.
Nothing in cosmology makes sense without dark matter. We needed it to form galaxies, stars and other structures in the Universe. And so it's absolutely central to cosmology. We also know that none of the particles known to exist can be the dark matter particle. So it has to be a new particle of nature. Remarkably, our most conservative hypothesis right now is that the dark matter is a new form of matter - out there to be discovered and to teach us about particle physics.
Maria Spiropulu - A Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, CA. An experimental particle physicist, Spiropulu is interested in the search for dark matter at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research), and questions about dark matter that cut across particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology. Spiropulu was previously a senior physics researcher in the Physics Department at CERN from 2004-2012. She was also an Enrico Fermi Fellow from 2001-2004.
SPIROPULU: I just want to say one thing. The phenomenon of dark matter was discovered from astronomical observations. We know that galaxies hang together and they don't fly apart, and it's the same with clusters of galaxies. So we know that we have structure in the universe. Whatever it is that keeps it there, in whatever form it is, we call that dark matter. This is the way I teach it to undergraduates. It's a fantastical story. It's still a mystery and so it’s "dark," but the universe and its structures - galaxies and everything else we observe in the macroscopic world - are being held together because of it.
TKF: Dark matter is often described in the media as something that is inferred because of its gravitational effects on ordinary matter. But the case for dark matter is much more expansive than that, as astrophysicist Jeremiah [Jerry] Ostriker from Princeton University said at this meeting.
TURNER: Absolutely. Dark matter is absolutely central to cosmology and the evidence for it comes from many different measurements: the amount of deuterium produced in the big bang, the cosmic microwave background, the formation of structure in the Universe, galaxy rotation curves, gravitational lensing, and on and on. Jerry said that as far as he is concerned, the dark matter problem has been solved. And that's because this idea that dark matter is just a swarm of particles that are very shy, that rarely interact with ordinary matter and then only weakly, works perfectly. And at the end of his talk, he said, as a kind of footnote: "By the way, I would be interested in knowing what the dark matter is." This is a testimony to how central dark matter is to cosmology and culturally to how particle physicists and astrophysicists look at dark matter differently. Dr. Gross, the particle physicist, wanted to know what dark matter is made of.
The Search for Dark Matter
What is dark matter? We don't know, but cosmologists, astrophysicists and experimental particle physicists say they are closing in on an answer. Read a short explanation of what scientists consider the leading candidate, as well as the methods being used to detect dark matter.
TKF: So for Dr. Ostriker, knowing exactly what dark matter is is less important than the work done already - measuring its gravitational influence on ordinary matter, estimating how much of the universe is made from it, and affirming that what we do know about it fits with the standard model of cosmology.
TURNER: That was Jerry's point, yes. There is five times more dark matter than ordinary matter, and its existence allows us to understand the history of the universe beginning from a formless particle soup until where we are today. If you said, "You no longer have dark matter," our current cosmological model would collapse. We would be back to square one.
TKF: Dr. Ostriker also argued that we should be open to dark matter being a variety of fundamental particles and not only WIMPs. Other possibilities could be neutrinos and axions.
TURNER: Because he doesn't care what it is. They all work equally well. The flip side is that cosmology tells us little about dark matter except it is cold.
TKF: Do they all work equally well for each of you?
KOLB: Well, for cold dark matter - which is made from particles that move slowly compared with the speed of light, and is the kind needed for forming galaxies and galaxy clusters - they all work equally well. The thing about the WIMP, as opposed to some of these other candidate particles, is that it's a very compelling possibility we can test right now. So we don't have to wait for the next 30 years or the next century, as we might if we were trying to detect another type of hypothesized particle. We don't have to build an accelerator larger than LHC.
It's a magical moment when astronomers, astrophysicists, string theorists, particle experimentalists and cosmologists get together because they all have a common purpose. There is a common problem that excites them.
TKF: What makes you most optimistic that we're on the threshold of discovery?
KOLB: First of all, the hypothesis that dark matter is made up of WIMPs - and that it was produced by normal particles, say quarks, in the early universe - is an amazing achievement all by itself. Independent of a lot of the details of what goes on there and exactly how that happens, we expect that you should be able to reverse things and produce WIMPs in particle accelerators. We also expect they should be annihilating today in the galaxy, which we should be able to detect indirectly. Now, it's another issue who will be the first to find WIMPs. It's possible that it will be another 30 years before we do that, but we should be able to make a detection - whether it's direct or indirect.
SPIROPULU: With the Large Hadron Collider, and before that the Tevatron collider, we have been chasing and targeting the dark matter candidate. For us, the optimism is because the LHC is working and we're collecting a lot of data. In the standard model of particle physics, when we enlarge it to help explain how the universe began and evolved, we have a story that is a mathematical story. It's very good at describing how we can have dark matter. And if the mathematics accurately describes reality, then the LHC is now achieving the energies that are needed to produce dark matter particles.
Getting to these high energies is critical, and we are even going to higher energies. When we were building the standard model of particle physics, we kept saying that the next particle discovery that we predicted was "right around the corner." In other words, we were not, and we are not, flying in the dark. We are guided by a huge amount of data and knowledge, and while you might think there are infinite possibilities of what can happen, the data actually points you to something that is more probable. For example, we have found the Higgs-like particle, but that was predicted. So the next big step for this edifice of knowledge is to find something that will look like supersymmetry - a hypothesis that, if true, offers a perfect candidate for dark matter. We call it a miracle, because the mathematics works. But the way nature works, in the end, is what you see in the data. So if we find it, there is no miracle.
"Cosmologists, astrophysicists and particle physicists have now really started talking to one another about dark matter. We're only beginning and our language - the way speak to each other - is not yet settled... but we are on the threshold of discovering something very important for all of us. - Maria Spiropulu
TURNER: These dark matter particles, or WIMPs, don't interact with ordinary matter often. It's taken 25 years to improve the sensitivity of our detectors by a factor of a million, and now they have a good shot at detecting the dark matter particles. Because of the technological developments, we think we are on the cusp of a direct detection.
Likewise for indirect detection. We now have instruments like the Fermi satellite (the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope) and the IceCube detector (the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole) that can detect the ordinary particles (positrons, gamma rays or neutrinos) that are produced when dark matter particles annihilate, indirectly allowing dark matter to be detected. IceCube is big enough to detect neutrinos that are produced by dark matter annihilations in the sun.
TKF: A few people over the past two days have said the dark matter particle might not be detectable.
TURNER: For many of us, for 20 to 30 years, this idea that dark matter is part of a unified theory has been our Holy Grail and has led to the WIMP hypothesis and the belief that the dark matter particle is detectable. But there's a new generation of physicists that is saying, "Well, there's an alternative view. Dark matter is actually just the tip of an iceberg of another world that is unrelated to our world. And I cannot even tell you about that world. There are no rules for that other world, at least that we know of yet." Sadly, this point of view could be correct and might mean the solution to the dark matter problem is still very far away. That is what led Jerry to say that discovering what dark matter actually is could be 100 years away.
TKF: Michael Witherell, Professor of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, also said that nature doesn't guarantee an observation.
TURNER: Also true. But we have the WIMP hypothesis and it is falsifiable. And there's a good chance it's true. A "good chance" in this business means 10 percent or 20 percent. But when you’re trying to solve a problem of this magnitude, if you have a 10-20 percent chance, I say let's double down on that.
TKF: When do you predict we'll detect WIMPs?
KOLB: It's easy to say, "A decade." LHC is turning on now. It'll be another year or so before they are at full energy, and they may run a couple of years to accumulate data. Meanwhile, the Fermi satellite is in space making observations. And then we have experiments underground: a detection may come with Xenon100, one dark matter experiment now underway in central Italy, or some successor to Xenon100.
TKF: And programs like LUX, the Large Underground Xenon dark matter experiment in South Dakota, are just coming online.
KOLB: In ten years, if there is no indication of supersymmetry or a WIMP - either from direct detection or indirect detection searches - then there is going to be a sea change. Now, there is not going to be one experiment announcement that says, "OK, let's look at something else." But if ten years from now there is no evidence, then we are going to other possibilities. You could not have said that ten years ago, or even five years ago. Today, I think you can say that.
TKF: Because we have so much work behind us and have already eliminated numerous possibilities.
KOLB: As in Ghostbusters, we have the tools. We have the talent.
SPIROPULU: I think it's fair to say the discovery is "around the corner." If we continue with exclusions, then we have to come up with better ideas. We are doing all this because we want to characterize dark matter. We are not just saying, "It is dark matter." We don't want to just say, "The universe is." We want to know exactly what it is made of. We want to know the dynamics and what it involves. A lot of work is ahead of us. Somebody said that it's not going to be as easy as finding the Higgs. Well, finding the Higgs was extremely nontrivial. Of course, once we find it, it goes in the pool of knowledge and then you say, "Well, it was easy."
"[W]e need to discover what exactly is dark matter. The excitement now is that we are closing in on an answer, and only once in the history of humans will someone discover it." - Rocky Kolb
TKF: Painting a picture for the general public about how incredible it would be to discover a WIMP is challenging. How do you convey just how sensitive this measurement would be?
TURNER: I keep saying these particles are very shy. Here's one way to think about this: if you had 100 kilograms of material, one of these shy particles - one of these WIMPS - would interact with that 100 kg once in a year or even less often. So you really have to build very sensitive detectors. Because of the cosmic rays and other particles that light up your detector and obscure the WIMP signal you're looking for, you have to put WIMP detectors underground. And even underground you still get natural radioactivity clouding your signal, so you have to discriminate against that as well.
Now, we also expect there's a seasonal modulation in the dark matter signal as the Earth orbits the sun through the sea of dark matter particles that permeate space. The modulation signal is expected to be only a few percent of the rare, dark-matter signal I talked about a minute ago. We do have the equipment in place to make these detections, but we just need Nature to cooperate.
KOLB: It's a fantastical story. One hundred years ago, if I told you that we are surrounded by these invisible particles and they're passing through us - you don't feel them yet they form the entire structure of the universe - you would have locked me up.
TKF: Do any of you expect that learning about dark matter will help us also learn about the other big mystery in cosmology - dark energy?
KOLB: Possibly nothing. It depends on what the answer will be. It is possible it won't shed any light on the nature of dark energy.
TURNER: There are two views. One is a conservative view, which is that dark matter is just made up of particles that don't give off light. It's just particles that happened to be more important than the stuff that we are made out of, which we only discovered in the past 70 years. And dark energy is a new problem that is unrelated.
TKF: And the only thing they share at this point is being unknown?
TURNER: That's right. The conservative point of view is that dark energy is unrelated to dark matter. Recall, dark energy is the stuff that is causing the universe to speed up. This is the simple view where we are solving problems one at a time.
A more radical view which we heard about at this meeting from Erik Verlinde (from the University of Amsterdam) is, "You know, guess what? Don't you guys get it? The two of them are related. It has nothing to do with particles. It's something much, much bigger. The two are related and are pointing to a much richer explanation. You are trying to explain things in a simple-minded way: dark matter particles and dark energy. Just like Ptolemy's epicycles (the epicycles of Claudius Ptolemy, a Greek astronomer who lived in Alexandria, Egypt under Roman rule, is a false construction of an Earth-centered universe, specifically describing the observed retrograde motion of planets), a desperate attempt to make a wrong hypothesis work.
And so those are the two extremes. One is that we are just about to solve dark matter and then we will go on to dark energy and they're probably not related; the other is that together, they make this big flashing sign: You guys really need to sit down and reconsider the whole framework.
SPIROPULU: I think it's worth noting that the dark sector (i.e. dark matter and dark energy) has to do with gravity. They are linked via gravity. Gravity is a force that in particle physics we have not been able to put together with the rest of the forces. Somehow, if you could stand outside the universe - that's an absurd statement, of course - but stand outside it and see how everything relates, you could say something about the dark sector and gravity.
TURNER: You're right that gravity could be the connector, because in cosmology and astrophysics gravity is the most important force. In particle physics, it's the least important force. Consequently particle physicists are just getting around to worrying about it, and in cosmology we mostly worry about gravity. And so now, we have come together because of a common interest in gravity - gravity revealed to us through dark matter and dark energy.
SPIROPULU: Here we are, with dark matter between us. It's a beautiful story of how we are trying to solve the problems, the challenges of characterizing our physical world.
KOLB: Dark matter holds together the galaxies. It holds together cosmologists and particle physicists.
TURNER: We know that Einstein didn't get the last word on gravity, because his theory doesn't have quantum mechanics in it. And so any problem that involves gravity, you are thinking, nervously and excitedly, that this could be the clue to the grander theory of gravity.
KOLB: I don't think the general public appreciates that we would love to find something wrong with what we think about the universe, about the laws of nature. And that's because it points the way toward new discoveries. I don't think most people work that way, thinking that, "Boy, I would love to be shown that I'm wrong about something that I really thought was true for 30 years or 100 years."
"[T]he universe is vast....but we are at a point in time where we really think we understand it and that we can identify what dark matter is. ...This is the time to be a dark cosmologist." - Michael Turner
TURNER: We want new puzzles.
SPIROPULU: Always. And I have to say that in particle physics, there is a list of experiments and projects that have been built in the past 30 years that did not find what they were built for. None. They found other things, other important things. It's incredible. One example of this is the Hubble Space Telescope, which has revealed more about the universe than we ever could have imagined when it was conceived. The series of deep field images of the very distant universe, which has given us glimpses of the earliest galaxies, is just one example of this. So, when you write a proposal for something and you say what you are building it for, and you get the money and you go and build it and you find something completely unexpected - Wow. Our physical world is surprising. And it's very surprising that we can get it, even at the level we do. Or that we can do the experiments that we do.
TURNER: I think the universe is vast. It's often beyond the reach of our instruments and our minds, but we are at a point in time here where we really think we understand it and that we can identify what dark matter is. We have an accounting of the universe and a compelling hypothesis for dark matter. It is not unexpected that the younger generation of scientists wants a more radical solution to dark matter. The older generation developed the WIMP hypothesis, and this is our solution and we want to see it come true. The younger generation wants the excitement of solving a problem.
TKF: Would any of you trade this point in time with another in the history of physics?
KOLB: No, no. For dark matter, I think this is the time. I can't see everything converging at another time like it is now.
TURNER: This is the time to be a dark cosmologist.
- Fall 2012
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KICP Members: Edward W. Kolb; Michael S. Turner
Four on faculty elected fellows of American Association for the Advancement of Science
The University of Chicago News Office, December 13, 2012
Four University of Chicago faculty members were elected as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the organization announced on Nov. 29.
The UChicago fellows are: Anthony Kossiakoff, the Otho S.A. Sprague Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics; Angela Olinto, Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics; Steven Shevell, the Eliakim Hastings Moore Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology and Ophthalmology & Visual Science; and Melvyn Shochet, Professor in Physics.
In all this year, 702 scholars were named AAAS fellows for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. The new fellows will be presented with an official certificate and pin at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2013 AAAS annual meeting in Boston. The AAAS is an international organization that promotes scientific understanding through many programs, including publication of the prestigious journal Science.
Olinto is being recognized for her distinguished contributions to the field of astrophysics, particularly exotic states of matter and extremely high-energy cosmic ray studies at the Auger Observatory.
Olinto's research interests span theoretical astrophysics, particle and nuclear astrophysics, and cosmology. She has focused much of her work on understanding the origins of the highest energy cosmic rays and the ultra-compressed core of matter in neutron stars. Ultra-high-energy cosmic rays enter the atmosphere with so much energy that they produce a giant cascade of many tens of billions of secondary particles, which can be observed by large detectors such as the Auger Observatory.
Olinto now leads the Japanese Experiment Module-Extreme Universe Space Observatory mission to observe these ultra-energy particles from the International Space Station.
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KICP Members: Angela V. Olinto
Scientific projects: Pierre Auger Observatory (AUGER)