Conference: Cosmic Controversies
October 5 - 8, 2019 | Gleacher center, Chicago | Workshop
Gleacher center, Chicago
Are we close to a fundamental cosmological paradigm, or is a major disruption imminent?

Is cosmology on the verge of a fundamental description of the Universe from a tiny fraction of a second after the big bang until today based upon LCDM, or is it on the cusp of major disruption and re-organization of our understanding of the Universe? Eight cosmic controversies - the value(s) the Hubble constant, viability of CDM, cause of cosmic acceleration, validity of inflation, the existence of a dark matter particle, clarity about the multiverse, origin of ordinary matter, and other loose ends in the paradigm - have much to say about the direction cosmology will take in the next decade and may the answer the question above. Our cosmology conclave will focus on these controversies and address how best to resolve them.

The controversies
  1. What is the resolution of the current H0 discrepancy?
  2. Is a theory beyond Cold Dark Matter needed to describe structure formation?
  3. What is the explanation of Cosmic Acceleration?
  4. Can Inflation be transformed into a fundamental theory of the early Universe?
  5. Do we need the Multiverse and can it made turned into a scientific theory?
  6. Is there a Dark Matter Particle or do we need another explanation for the dark matter phenomenon?
  7. Whither Baryogenesis?
  8. Are we close to Cosmic Convergence or on a path to Cosmic Disruption?

... and what tools are critical for making progress in cosmology in the coming decades?

Conference Format
Eight, 90-minute afternoon panels featuring a moderator/chair and 3 speakers. Forty-some 25-minute invited morning talks that inform the panels, and contributed posters. Evenings include a public event, a banquet and a poster session reception.

Workshop: The Magnificent CEvNS
November 2 - 3, 2018 | Chicago, IL | Workshop
Workshop: The Magnificent CEvNS

With the observation of coherent elastic neutrino-nucleus scattering (CEvNS, pronounced "sevens") now realized, there is a groundswell of efforts in and around the process. This workshop will bring together theorists, phenomenologists, and experimentalists from the CEvNS community with the goal of exploring upcoming experiments, the complementarity between them, and the broad range of physics questions that CEvNS can address. The current landscape of ongoing or potential CEvNS experiments will be surveyed, and discussion will be fostered about the physics topics that can be most powerfully or uniquely addressed by this process. By bringing together theory and experiment workers at this exciting moment, we hope to enrich the exchanges within the CEvNS community, with the goal of defining and guiding future common efforts that maximize the physics impact of this process.

The workshop will be co-hosted by the Enrico Fermi Institute (EFI) and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP), and will take place on the University of Chicago campus at the newly renovated Physics Research Center (PRC), home of the EFI.Learn more >>

88nd Compton Lectures: Amy Lowitz, "Nuts and Bolts Cosmology"
October 20, 2018 | 11:00 AM | KPTC, Room 106 | Lecture
88nd Compton Lectures: Amy Lowitz, "Nuts and Bolts Cosmology"
Saturdays, September 29 - November 17, 2018, 11AM.
Kersten Physics Teaching Center, 5720 S. Ellis, Room 106

For almost as long as there have been humans, they have looked to the sky in an effort to understand their place in the universe. Some of the oldest surviving records of cosmological thought come from the early Mesopotamians and describe a flat, circular Earth embedded in a cosmic ocean. Our study and understanding of the Universe has come a long way since then; we now build massive and highly sensitive instruments to measure the Universe, and we know a great deal about what the Universe is made of and how it has evolved over the past 13.8 billion years. Still, many open questions remain and drive the development of ever more sensitive measurements.

In this lecture series, we will address the current state of observational cosmology, with an emphasis on microwave cosmology and on the instruments used to measure the cosmos. A discussion of the history of the field will provide context and motivation for current measurement efforts. In addition, I will talk about the 'nuts and bolts' of how light detectors and telescope cameras are built. Finally, we will conclude the series with a peek into the future, both of the field and of the Universe itself.

Physics colloquium: Stephan Meyer, University of Chicago, "Physics is for Everyone"
October 11, 2018 | 4:00 PM | KPTC 106 | Talk
Physics is among the least diverse fields in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. History and continued barriers to career advancement result in extremely small numbers of women, African Americans, Hispanic and Native Americans being granted Ph.Ds and hired to into faculty positions at research universities in physics. I will discuss the prevalence of these barriers and our role in their persistence, as well as concrete steps we, as a department, need to take. The path to the vibrant future of our field requires addressing, not ignoring, the marked differences in gender and racial makeup of academic departments versus society as a whole.

Workshop: The Future of H0: Crisis or Concordance?
October 4 - 5, 2018 | Chicago, Il | Workshop
Workshop: The Future of H0: Crisis or Concordance?

Just in the last two years, we have seen the final Planck data release, measurements of the local value of the Hubble constant nearing two percent, the first standard siren measurement, and new strong lens time delay cosmological measurements. Even with a number of re-analyses and systematic checks on these various analyses, tension of the local Ho measurements and the CMB inferred Ho value remains, and excitement continues to increase amongst cosmologists regarding the source of tension. In this workshop, we are asking what's next for all these experiments and analyses. This workshop will be focused on analyses coming out in the next year or two, looking at what we can expect before the next generation of experiments come online. We want to hear about new ideas to push down at systematic uncertainties in current analyses, what lingering issues remain unresolved and what can be done to solve them. This workshop will be a unique chance for scientists who work on different probes to think together about what can be done to better understand what is driving the tension and how the next round of analyses can address various concerns.

Potential Topics:
  • Cosmic Microwave Background
  • Local Distance Ladder
  • Standard Sirens
  • Tension Analysis
  • Strong Lensing
  • Baryon Acoustic Oscillations
  • Hubble bubble
  • Peculiar Velocities
  • GAIA
  • Theory
Learn more >>

EFI colloquium: Erik Shirokoff, "Exploring the early Universe (and fundamental physics) with intensity mapping"
October 1, 2018 | 4:15 PM | PRC 201 | Lecture
EFI colloquium: Erik Shirokoff, "Exploring the early Universe (and fundamental physics) with intensity mapping"
When did the reionization of the universe happen? Was it driven by the first stars, or by quasars? How does the large scale structure of the universe evolve over time at high redshift? Tomographic intensity mapping using submm-wavelength spectral lines is uniquely placed to answer these questions. This technique measures the statistical properties of billions of spatially-unresolved galaxies over large regions of sky, as a function of redshift. In addition to probing hard-to-observe astrophysics, it also provides a unique contribution to fundamental physics experiments. As a polarized foreground-cleaner and a tool for better removing gravitationally lensed B-modes from future CMB observations, an independent measurement of large scale structure evolution with unique systematic biases, and (when combined with other data) a tracer of optical depth, intensity mapping experiments will provide a vital contribution to future cosmological probes of inflation and dark energy. These measurements require tens of thousands of pixel-hours using a moderate-resolution spectrometer at a world-class mm-wavelength observatory. Recent advances in superconducting detectors and on-chip band-defining mm-wave electronics make it possible, for the first time, to carry out such observations. I'll discuss our work toward building such instruments, and the science results they'll yield in the near future.

Midwest LIGO meeting
September 20, 2018 | 9:00 AM | ERC 401 | Workshop
Midwest LIGO meeting
Hi everyone,

KICP will be hosting a Midwest LIGO meeting all day in ERC 401. Although most of the workshop will be for LIGO members, if you have any burning questions about LIGO/GW astrophysics please feel free to swing by and join us during the breaks (12:30-1:30pm, 3:30-4pm, or after 6pm).

-- Reed and Daniel

KICP Summer Institute: City of Tomorrow
July 29 - August 4, 2018 | Chicago, IL | Workshop
KICP Summer Institute: City of Tomorrow
Our world is changing rapidly. What will tomorrow look like? As we strive to take care of this planet, we also look to the stars, to other planets. We explore the far reaches of space for our curiosity, for discovery - also, possibly for another home for our species. How would we provide energy for a civilization on another planet? How do we approach ethics and justice in this new civilization? This year, teams of student researchers will design unique proposals for energy infrastructure on three kinds of extraterrestrial systems - a planet, a moon, and a space ship.
Activities and Events
- Study and design technologies for the generation and distribution of power for a civilization.
- Perform a Model United Nations and discuss the social impacts of resource allocation.
- Visit Adler Planetarium and Museum of Science and Industry for research
- Work alongside physicists, geophysicists, and astrophysicists.
- Experience the University of Chicago campus.
Facilitators and Organizers
- Faculty and Students from University of Chicago Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP)
- Office of Special Programs

Soapbox Science
July 21, 2018 | 12:00 PM | Navy Pier | Event
Soapbox Science
Organizer: Maria Weber

Soapbox Science is an international, grass-roots science outreach organization that brings cutting edge research to urban settings while also promoting the visibility of women in science. We place inspirational female speakers on soapboxes (literally!) and encourage them to engage in and start conversations with the public about their work. This is a free event where our female scientists will interact with visitors to Navy Pier, busker style, telling them about everything from ecology to mathematics to astrophysics.

This summer, 30 Soapbox Science events are being held across the world. Chicago will be the first ever United States location. Our event will occur on Saturday July 21 from 12-3pm at Chicago's iconic Navy Pier. We have selected 12 outstanding Chicago-based early career women in STEM, who are ready to wow Chicagoland with their ground-breaking research.

Soapbox Science is not just about the speakers. Without a supportive team of committed, enthusiastic people, a Soapbox event simply cannot happen. Each event relies on an animated team of up to 20 volunteers. Volunteers play a crucial role in rounding up the public, chatting to them informally about science, and supporting the speakers by managing props. But perhaps the most important role of the volunteers is gathering data so we can effectively monitor the success of the event: volunteers carry out the bulk of our streamlined evaluation process, through interviews, observations and counting footfall.

Ross Cawthon, "Effects of Redshift Uncertainty on Cross-Correlations of CMB Lensing and Galaxy Surveys"
July 18, 2018 | 2:00 PM | ERC 576 | PhD Thesis Defense
Ross Cawthon, "Effects of Redshift Uncertainty on Cross-Correlations of CMB Lensing and Galaxy Surveys"
PhD Thesis Defense
Ph.D. Committee members: Josh Frieman (PhD advisor), Scott Dodelson, Steve Kent, Dan Hooper

Thesis Abstract: Wide-field galaxy imaging surveys, such as the Dark Energy Survey (DES), and cosmic microwave background experiments, such as the South Pole Telescope (SPT), have great synergy in studying the large-scale structure of the Universe. One of the most important combined measurements from these types of surveys is the cross-correlation of galaxy positions with locations of gravitational lensing of the CMB.

In this thesis, I go in depth in projecting future cosmological constraints of this measurement. The key element of my work that has not been studied previously is the effect of redshift uncertainties on these constraints. I will show that discounting this effect can greatly overestimate the precision of these measurements. I will also show how some of this loss of precision can be mitigated, going from 50 times larger uncertainties than the perfectly known redshifts case, to only 2-3 times larger. A secondary goal of my work is to show that these measurements can simultaneously constrain the redshift information of samples of galaxies. I will show that these constraints on redshift information can be competitive with typical methods of estimating photometric redshifts. I will discuss projections of both the current DES/SPT era, and the exciting future era (2020s) of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) and the CMB-Stage 4 experiment.

Workshop: Near-Field Cosmology with the Dark Energy Survey's DR1 and Beyond
June 27 - 29, 2018 | Chicago, IL | Workshop
Workshop: Near-Field Cosmology with the Dark Energy Survey's DR1 and Beyond

Stars in our Milky Way and galaxies in our Local Group contain the fossils and clues on stellar evolution and supernovae, the formation and evolution of star clusters and dwarf galaxies, and the formation of large spiral galaxies. Rapid progress in this field -- usually called Galactic Archeology -- was enabled by large-area imaging and spectroscopic surveys of old stellar components of the Milky Way and dwarf galaxies, together with simulations of chemical and dynamical evolution. The field of Near-Field Cosmology extends the scope of these studies to probe the formation and evolution of galaxies and the nature of dark matter.

The Dark Energy Survey (DES) is releasing its DR1, with catalogs and images from the first three years of DES operations early in 2018, including 400M objects (100M stellar sources in grizY band to r of 24th magnitude at 10 sigma) over 5000 square degrees mostly in the Southern Galactic cap. This survey is about 2 magnitudes fainter than SDSS at the same S/N. In addition to DES, many other DECam community surveys, such as DECaLS, DECaPS, SMASH, MagLiteS, BLISS, etc, have already had or will soon have the public data release.

Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP) at the University of Chicago will host a 3-day workshop on June 27-29 to explore uses of the DES DR1 for near field cosmology studies in conjunction with other DECam public data. Furthermore, the workshop will explore possible synergies with other spectroscopic surveys as well as Gaia DR2.

The 3-day workshop will include presentations and discussion on the first two days and a hack day on the last day. Talks on ideas or science results related to DES/DECam data, or synergies with other programs are encouraged. Abstracts can be submitted at registration. On the hack day, we will hack on DES DR1 data and associated data sets (like Gaia DR2) in a collaborative format. Specific hack topics can be submitted at registration.

Topics in this workshop includes:
  • Dark Matter and Near-Field Cosmology
  • Milky Way satellite galaxies - satellites of satellites, planes of satellites, dark matter particle physics
  • Stellar streams and halo overdensities -- constraints on Milky Way dark matter halo
  • First stars; Reionization; Chemical Evolution -- r-process variation
  • Time series photometry and RR Lyrae stars -- distant structure tracers
  • Local Group and Nearby Galaxies -- Ultra-Diffuse Galaxies
  • Synergy with Gaia DR2 and other spectroscopic programs/surveys.
  • Synergy with other DECam surveys and/or other imaging surveys.
Learn more >>

Workshop: Joint SPT-DES Analysis
June 20 - 22, 2018 | Chicago, IL | Workshop
Workshop: Joint SPT-DES Analysis

The Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics (KICP) at the University of Chicago is hosting the "SPTxDES Joint Analysis" workshop, which will be held from 20th to 22nd June 2018 in the Eckhardt Research Center (ERC) on the University of Chicago campus.

This workshop focuses on the science at the intersection of two leading cosmology experiments---the Dark Energy Survey (DES) and the South Pole Telescope (SPT) - with the goal of optimal extraction of cosmological constraints from these two surveys.

The workshop would serve as both a forum for discussions on current analyses as well as an incubator for future ideas. The meeting will cover two main themes: galaxy clusters and wide-field science. While these topics cover a broad spectrum, we will target the workshop such that it accelerates joint work on these key areas of synergy between the two collaborations.Learn more >>

Cameron Liang, "Multiphase Gaseous Halos around Galaxies"
June 15, 2018 | 1:00 PM | ERC 401 | PhD Thesis Defense
Cameron Liang, "Multiphase Gaseous Halos around Galaxies"
PhD Thesis Defense
Ph.D. Committee members: Nickolay Y. Gnedin, Joshua A. Frieman, Daniel Fabrycky

Thesis Abstract: There is no doubt that our atmosphere is an integral part of the ecosystem of the Earth. Everyday weather and long-term climate of the atmosphere are directly linked to activities on the surface of the Earth and vice versa. Gaseous halos, known as the circumgalactic medium (CGM), are the equivalent atmospheres of galaxies.

In this thesis, I provide a major step towards the empirical constraints and theoretical modeling of the CGM and the co-evolution with their host galaxies. Using background quasars, I statistically map the spatial extent of multiphase gaseous halos in a sample of ~200 galaxies that span nearly five orders of magnitude in stellar mass, from dwarf to L*, and more massive galaxies. With these empirical constraints, I explore the effects of theoretical modeling of star formation and feedback processes using a set of high-resolution cosmological zoom-in simulations of a Milk-Way progenitor. To connect more closely with observations, I develop a synthetic absorption pipeline, as a virtual telescope, to observe the simulated galaxy and their CGM. This series of observational and theoretical studies have led to new insights of the cold gas in galactic winds and halos. I explore a new model, the circumgalactic mist, with a set of magneto-hydrodynamic simulations. I will present the model implications on the spatial distribution of multiphase gas around galaxies.

Pavel Motloch, "Topics in Gravitational Lensing of the Cosmic Microwave Background"
June 4, 2018 | 2:30 PM | ERC 401 | PhD Thesis Defense
Pavel Motloch, "Topics in Gravitational Lensing of the Cosmic Microwave Background"
PhD Thesis Defense
Ph.D. Committee members: Wayne Hu (Ph.D. advisor), Stephan Meyer, Michael Turner Robert Wald

Thesis Abstract: Gravitational lensing of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) has recently started to gain importance as a cosmological probe. With growing detection significance of this effect, it is necessary to further develop theoretical understanding of its consequences. Such studies are the main topic of this work.

We start by looking at correlations that the gravitational lensing induces between CMB temperature, polarization and reconstructed lensing potential and investigate how neglecting them in an analysis impacts constraints on cosmological parameters. We find that for the planned CMB Stage 4 experiment, neglecting these correlations can significantly underestimate variance of certain combinations of cosmological parameters, as well as lead to an increased frequency of mistakenly rejecting the underlying cosmological model.

Then we discuss a method we developed to directly measure the gravitational lensing potential from the CMB data and explain how to practically perform such measurement. This method helps us understand why it is necessary to include the lensing-induced covariances to get correct constraints on cosmological parameters. Additionally, comparing direct measurements of the lensing potential from various subsets of data or across experiments allows for powerful consistency checks that can be used to search for residual systematics and exotic new physics. When assuming a particular cosmological model, this technique can also be used to probe internal consistency of lensing within a single data set.

In the final part of this work we apply this methodology to check lensing consistency of the Planck satellite data. We find that it is not possible to resolve the lensing anomalies seen in this data even when allowing for an arbitrary gravitational lensing potential, beyond the predictions of the standard cosmological model. Significances of these tensions are evaluated at above 2σ; one possible explanation are residual systematics in the Planck temperature power spectrum. Without large modifications, this technique can be applied to data from other current and especially future experiments, where its full power will become manifest.

KICP/A&A Education and Public Outreach Celebration and Open House
May 29, 2018 | 3:00 PM | ERC 401 | Event
KICP/A&A Education and Public Outreach Celebration and Open House
Join us on Tuesday May 29 from 3-4:30pm in ERC 401 to celebrate the contributions of KICP and A&A members in the wide variety of Education and Public Outreach (EPO) programs that take place within our departments. Looking to get involved in EPO, or want to volunteer for more? Great! We will have representatives present from all of our initiatives.

Come mingle, eat, drink, share your EPO stories, and find out more about how you can volunteer for our EPO programs. Drop in at any time.

Broader Horizons: Jennifer Helsby, Freedom of the Press Foundation
May 24, 2018 | 5:00 PM | ERC 401 | Talk
Broader Horizons: Jennifer Helsby, Freedom of the Press Foundation
Organizer: Andrew Neil

Jennifer is Lead Developer of SecureDrop at the non-profit organization Freedom of the Press Foundation. SecureDrop is an anonymous whistleblowing platform used by dozens of major news organizations for safe communications between journalists and their sources. Prior to joining Freedom of the Press Foundation in 2016, she was a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Data Science and Public Policy at the University of Chicago, where she worked on applying machine learning methods to problems in public policy. She will discuss her transition from cosmology to public interest technology.

Spring 2018 Postdocs Symposium
May 11, 2018 | 12:30 PM | ERC 401 | Postdocs Symposium
Postdocs Symposium
12:30 Lunch
13:00 Start of talks (5 x 10+5 min)
  • 13:00 - 13:15 Eric Oberla: Radio Arrays for Ultra High Neutrino Detection at the South Pole
  • 13:15 - 13:30 Rito Thakur: Playing with Sub-mm Photons
  • 13:30 - 13:45 Dan Scolnic: Host Galaxy Issues for Type Ia Supernova Cosmology
  • 13:45 - 14:00 Faustin Carter: Wirebonds? Really? For Ten Minutes?
  • 14:00 - 14:15 Chihway Chang: Cosmic Shear Archaeology
14:30 Coffe break
15:00 Other talks (5 x 10+5 min)
  • 15:00 - 15:15 Kimmy Wu: Fitting LCDM to SPT-SZ and SPTpol Data
  • 15:15 - 15:30 Andrew Long: It All Decays - The Depressing Fate of Life, the Universe, and Everything
  • 15:30 - 15:45 Ryan Thomas: Work on the DAMIC Project at Chicago
  • 15:45 - 16:00 Nicole Larsen: Mini-Broader Horizons Talk
16:15 Snacks and drinks

Workshop: Towards Dark Matter Discovery
April 11 - 13, 2018 | Chicago, IL | Workshop
Workshop: Towards Dark Matter Discovery

The Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics (KICP) at the University of Chicago is hosting the "Towards Dark Matter Discovery" workshop, which will be held from 11th to 13th April 2018 in the Eckhardt Research Center (ERC) on the University of Chicago campus.

The workshop will explore new directions on the path toward discovering the nature of dark matter. The invited speakers are encouraged to share their expertise in the fields of primordial black holes, thermal relic dark matter, nonthermal relic dark matter, ultralight dark matter, superheavy dark matter, kinda-chubby dark matter, new strategies for direct detection, newer strategies for direct detection, avant-garde strategies for direct detection, and axions. During the three day workshop, we will host approximately 20 talks of 30 minutes each with generous time remaining for discussion.

Visitors to the University of Chicago are invited to spend the entire week at the university.Learn more >>

Winter 2018 Postdocs Symposium
February 23, 2018 | 1:00 PM | ERC 401 | Postdocs Symposium
Postdocs Symposium
1:00 PM
2:00 PM
Lightning talks
3:40 - 4:00 PM
4:00 PM
5:00 PM
Dinner and networking/socializing

Fall 2017 Postdocs Symposium
October 20, 2017 | 9:30 AM | ERC 401 | Postdocs Symposium
Postdocs Symposium
09:30 AM
Andrew Long, "WIMPzillas through the Higgs Portal"
10:00 AM
Kimmy Wu, "Constraining Inflation with BICEP/Keck Array and the South Pole Telescope"
10:30 AM
Macarena Lagos, "Landscape of cosmological models"
11:00 - 11:25 AM
11:25 AM
Kirit Karkare, "Beam Systematics in Degree-Scale CMB Polarization Measurements"
11:55 AM
Reed Essick, "Challenges and opportunities from routine gravitational wave detections"
12:25 PM