2008 - 2009

Dr. Tom Abel: "Cosmic Dawn: The First Star in the Universe"

When Oct 15, 2008
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where Burke Science Building Rm 147
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Tom Abel

Dr. Tom Abel
Stanford University

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What was the first thing in the Universe? A black hole or a star? How did it form? Even our biggest and best telescopes cannot tell us. Direct calculation with supercomputers, however, can. The first luminous objects in the Universe were very massive stars shining one million times as brightly as our sun. They died quickly and seeded the cosmos with the chemical elements necessary for life. One star at a time, galaxies started to assemble just one hundred million years after the Big Bang, and they are still growing now. Join Dr. Abel in a fascinating journey through the early universe, where he uses the latest computer animations of early star formation, supernovae explosions and the buildup of the first galaxies.

Speaker backgroundDr. Tom Abel of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology is a man with a mission: "My long term goal is to build a galaxy, one star at a time" (via computer modeling, of course). Among Abel's research interests are the processes and events of "the dark ages", the first few hundred million years after the Big Bang. Abel & colleagues' visualizations and simulations of dark ages events, in addition to over 60 publications in the technical literature, have been featured on PBS and The Discovery Channel and in numerous newspapers and magazines, including the covers of Discover in December 2002 and of National Geographic in February 2003. Dr. Abel studied at the Max Planck Institut fuer Astrophysik at Garching and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at Urbana/Champaign prior to earning a PhD in physics in 2000 from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany. Abel was a post- doctoral fellow at the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge, England and at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was a Wempe Lecturer at the Astrophysikalisches Institut Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany, in 2001, and merited a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, Arlington, Virginia, 2002. Dr. Abel served as an Assistant and then Associate Professor for 2.5 years at The Pennsylvania State University in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. He is now an Associate Professor of Physics in the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at both the Stanford University Physics Department and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford and Menlo Park, California.

Prof. Richard Teuscher: "The Large Hadron Collider: Reaching Back to the Big Bang"

When Feb 26, 2009
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where MDCL-1305/1307
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Richard Teuscher

Prof. Richard Teuscher
IPP / University of Toronto

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The world's largest particle accelerator is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), installed 100 m underground in a 27 km circular tunnel at the CERN laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. The LHC is truly a world-wide science facility, built by 85 countries working together on 6 continents, including about 150 researchers and students from across Canada. Together in this lecture we will explore the new discovery frontier being opened up by the LHC, probing energies an instant after the Big Bang. It may even unlock the mystery of \"Dark Matter\" in the universe. Highlights include some of the unprecedented challenges which were overcome in building the biggest science machine on earth.

Dr. Sara Seager: "Origins and Aliens: The Search for Other Earths"

When Mar 26, 2009
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where MDCL-1305/1307
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Sara Seager

Dr. Sara Seager
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
OI International Year of Astronomy Lecturer

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For thousands of years people have wondered, “Are we Alone?” With over 300 planets discovered to orbit nearby stars, the existence of "exoplanets" is firmly established. Astronomers are now able to routinely measure planetary sizes, masses, and atmospheres for a subset of hot, big exoplanets. The race to find "habitable" exoplanets is on with the realization that big Earths orbiting small stars can be both discovered and characterized with existing technology. Professor Seager will present highlights of recent exoplanet discoveries and discuss when we might find another Earth and what kinds of signs of life we are looking for. 

Dr. Christine Wilson: "Galaxy Collisions, Star Formation and Galactic Evolution"

When May 05, 2009
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where MDCL-1305/07
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Christine Wilson

Dr. Christine Wilson
McMaster University
OI International Year of Astronomy Lecturer

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The astronomical research of the next decade will focus on understanding the origins of planets, stars, galaxies, and even the universe itself. Millimeter-wave radio astronomy is a novel and crucial tool in this quest for origins, because it allows us to probe into the cold, dark regions of space where many of these formation processes occur. This talk will illustrate the promise and potential of these techniques by examining spectacular galaxy collisions that have triggered intense bursts of star formation, as well as new results which shed light on the more quiescent star formation which is the norm in galaxies like our own Milky Way. In addition, the talk will describe how new facilities currently under construction, such as the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), promise a revolution in our understanding of the origin of structure in the universe.

Speaker backgroundDr. Christine Wilson is a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at McMaster University and the Canadian Project Scientist for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array. The discoverer of Comet Wilson while still a graduate student, she is best known internationally for her work on star formation in nearby galaxies. She received her Ph.D. from Caltech in 1990, a Women's Faculty Award from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council in 1992, and a Premier's Research Excellence Award from the Ontario government in 1999. She recently spent a sabbatical year based in Hilo, Hawaii, at the Smithsonian Observatory, where she led a major research project on the fuel for star formation in galaxies undergoing intense bursts of star formation.

Dr. Steven Benner: "Natural History versus the Physical Sciences. How Scientists Approach the "Big Questions""

When May 26, 2009
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where MDCL-1305/1307
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Steven Benner

Dr. Steven Benner
Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution and The Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology

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Two cultures have separated biology over the past century. The first, represented by Charles Darwin, attempts to infer the history of organisms, which are generally considered in their living form. The second, spoken in the language of chemistry and physics, dissects those organisms in stages, the tissue, the cell, and ultimately the bio-molecule, generally after the organism is quite dead. The conflict between the cultures has divided biology departments in the academy and represents two very different cultures in science, education, funding, and accomplishment. Yet one cannot understand any system, from the QWERTY computer keyboard to the European Union, without understanding both their structures and their histories, and this truism applies to biology as well. This talk will describe, in lay terms, how the attempt to put back together natural history with the physical sciences is revolutionizing how we look at life, both in its natural state and in diseases, and how this revolution will affect the practical (how we manage the care of patients) to the ethereal (how we look for life on other planets).

Speaker backgroundSteven Benner is a Distinguished Fellow at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution and The Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology. His research seeks to combine two broad traditions in science, the first from natural history, the second from the physical sciences. Towards this goal, his group works in fields such as organic chemistry, biophysics, mo¬lecular evolution, bioinformatics, geobiology, and planetary science. He contributed to the founding of several new fields, including synthetic biology, paleogenetics, and computational bioinformatics. He co-chaired with John Baross the National Research Committee's 2007 panel on the "Limits to Organic Life in the Solar System", advised the design of missions to Mars, and invented technology that improves the medical care of some 400,000 patients each year suffering from infectious diseases and cancers.

Dr. Brian P. Schmidt: "The Universe From Beginning to End"

When Jun 04, 2009
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where MDCL-1305/1307
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Brian P. Schmidt

Dr. Brian P. Schmidt
The Australian National University, Mt. Stromlo Observatory
OI International Year of Astronomy Lecturer

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Astronomers believe our Universe began in a Big Bang, and is expanding around us. Brian Schmidt will describe the life of the Universe that we live in, and how astronomers have used observations to trace our Universe's history back more than 13 Billion years. With these data a puzzling picture has been pieced together where 96% of the Cosmos is made up of two mysterious substances, Dark Matter and Dark Energy. These two mysterious forms of matter are in a battle for domination of the Universe, and Schmidt will describe new experiments that are monitoring the struggle between Dark Energy and Dark Matter, trying better understand these elusive pieces of our Universe, and predict the ultimate fate of the Cosmos.