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Colloqiua & Seminars
Journey to the Beginning of Time: Turning Metaphysics into Physics
Lawrence M Krauss, Arizona State University
Even a generation ago, fundamental existential questions such as, "How did the Universe Begin?, How will it End?, Are we Alone, and, Are there OTHER Universes?," and other less grand but no less interesting questions such as "Do Black Holes Exist?" may have appeared as forever inaccessible metaphysical questions. Gravitational waves have now been discovered by LIGO, opening up a vast new window on the Universe. I will explain how we might eventually unambiguously detect a gravitational signal from moments after the Big Bang, pushing our direct empirical handle on the Universe back in time by 49 orders of magnitude, and revealing what we might learn about own origins, the nature of gravity, grand unification, and even the possible existence of other universes.
The Limits of Cosmology
Joe Silk, IAP/JHU
One of our greatest challenges in cosmology is understanding the origin of the structure of the universe, and in particular the formation of the galaxies. I will describe how the fossil radiation from the beginning of the universe, the cosmic microwave background, has provided a window for probing the initial conditions from which structure evolved and seeded the formation of the galaxies, and the outstanding issues that remain to be resolved. I will address our optimal choice of future strategy in order to make further progress on understanding our cosmic origins.
First observation of coherent elastic neutrino-nucleus scattering
Grayson C Rich, Triangle Universities Nuclear Lab
The process of coherent elastic neutrino-nucleus scattering (CEvNS) was predicted in 1974 by D.Z. Freedman, who suggested that attempts to detect CEvNS “may be an act of hubris” due to several profound experimental challenges. More than 40 years after its initial description, the world’s smallest functional neutrino detector has been used by the COHERENT Collaboration to produce the first observation of the process: a 14.6-kg CsI[Na] scintillator was deployed to the Spallation Neutron Source of Oak Ridge National Lab and observed, with high significance, evidence for a CEvNS process in agreement with the prediction of the Standard Model. I will discuss CEvNS and its connection to a range of exciting physics, including: its potential role in supernova dynamics; the possibility to use neutrinos as a tool for studying nuclear structure and neutron stars; its relationship to upcoming direct searches for WIMP dark matter; and the ways in which CEvNS could offer insight into physics beyond the Standard Model. The experimental program and the recent result from the COHERENT Collaboration will be presented along with ongoing efforts within the collaboration and future plans.
Fast Radio Bursts!
Albert Stebbins, Fermilab
On a human scale most astronomical sources are large and vary slowly. They must be large enough to produce enough light be to seen at astronomical distances and the light travel time across a large source limits the timescale for observable variations. Nevertheless in recent years extremely rapidly varying radio emission has been detected and found to be a common phenomena. The most extreme case has timescales as small as one nanosecond, inferred size smaller than one meter, peak luminosity exceeding that of the Sun, and is observed at a distance of 2kpc. More numerous and further away are Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), originating at cosmological distances, lasting a millisecond and arriving at Earth a few times a minute. These events are the brightest sources known in terms of an off-scale brightness temperature, yet the emission mechanism is undetermined. I will discuss some ideas for the origin of this emission and how these bright bursts could be used to augment gravitational wave and neutrino astronomy as well as the study of cosmological parameters and the intergalactic medium.
Observing, Mapping and Mocking our Cosmic Beginnings
J. Richard Bond, Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, University of Toronto
I will give my take on the phenomenology (and yes theory) of inflation as revealed in Planck and other CMB) and LSS experiments, but with an eye to the glorious CMB future of AdvACT, CCAT-p, Simons Observatory, Stage 4, and the LSS of Euclid, Chime, and much more besides that we mock. Apart from displaying linear and quadratic maps of the primordial universe, a compression of what we now know, i will chat about CMB/LSS anomalies, in practice and in theory, pointing to post-inflation chaotic dynamical systems that can lead to subdominant non-Gaussian signals unlike the ones we have put such stringent constraints on with Planck 2015; and relate everything to non-equilibrium entropies, including the formation of all cosmic structure.
News from PICO and COHERENT
Juan I. Collar, University of Chicago
I will discuss the most recent results from PICO, a search for WIMP dark matter using bubble chambers, as well as future plans and some exciting lines of related research. I will then move on to cover COHERENT, an ongoing effort at ORNL's Spallation Neutron Source to detect and exploit coherent neutrino-nucleus scattering, soon to produce first results. The "glue" between these two subjects will be an elaboration on the overlap in techniques and methods used in modern neutrino and astroparticle physics. Abundant examples of this cross-talk will be provided.
The Milky Way's Dark Companions
Alex Drlica-Wagner, Fermilab
PDF | Video
Our Milky Way galaxy is surrounded by a host of small, dark-matter-dominated satellite galaxies. Over the past two years, the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) has nearly doubled the number of known Milky Way satellite galaxies compared to the previous 80 years combined. While these discoveries continue to help resolve the "missing satellites problem", they have also raised new questions about the influence of the Magellanic Clouds on the Milky Way's satellite population. In the near future, the rapidly growing population of dwarf galaxies will be sensitive to deviations from ΛCDM at small scales, while definitively testing whether the annihilation of dark matter particles could be responsible for excess gamma-ray emission from the Galactic center. I will summarize recent results, outstanding questions, and upcoming advancements in the study of the Milky Way's dark companions.
Increasing Accuracy and Increasing Tension in H0
Wendy Freedman, KICP
PDF | Video
The accuracy in direct measurement of distances to galaxies has continued to improve dramatically over the past decade. Local measurements of the Hubble constant based on Hubble Space Telescope observations of astrophysical standard candles -- Cepheids and Type Ia supernovae -- have converged on a value of about 73 km/sec/Mpc with an uncertainty of 2-3%. At the same time, estimates assuming a Lambda-CDM standard model and fitting highly precise measurements of cosmic microwave background fluctuations have yielded a value of Ho = 67 km/sec/Mpc. The two methods disagree at approximately the 3-sigma level. The reason for this discrepancy is not understood at present, and new data have only increased the tension. If real, the disagreement could be signaling missing physics in the standard model; for example, additional dark radiation. Major efforts are ongoing to improve further the accuracy in the local measurements, including developing other techniques to test the Cepheid distance scale. In the near future JWST and Gaia will provide a path to measuring Ho to 1%, comparable to the precision in CMB measurements.