Cosmology at the Millennium!

Course Description

Cosmology is in the midst of a golden age. The confluence of powerful ideas and a flood of data made possible by new instruments and observatories (e.g., HST, Keck 10 m telescopes, COBE Satellite, Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Tevatron at Fermilab) are leading to great advances in our understanding of the origin and evolution of the Universe. Through the hot big-bang cosmological model we can confidently trace the history of the Universe from the quark soup that existed a fraction of a second after the beginning to the highly structured Universe we see today with galaxies, clusters of galaxies, superclusters, voids and great walls of galaxies (and maybe even larger things). The Universe is held together by dark matter, known only by its gravitational effects and thought to be elementary particles left over from the earliest moments of creation. It is believed that all the structure in the Universe originated from quantum mechanical fluctuations arising during a rapid period of expansion called inflation. Recent observations indicate that the Universe today may be speeding up rather than slowing down.

In this course, we will develop in detail the standard hot big-bang model, discussing the Hubble expansion, the cosmic microwave background radiation, big-bang nucleosynthesis, the age of the Universe, the quantity and composition of matter in the Universe, and the origin of large-scale structure through the attractive action of gravity. We will present the powerful ideas based upon the deep connections between elementary particle physics and cosmology (e.g., inflation, cold dark matter, baryogenesis, cosmological phase transitions, and Einstein's cosmological constant) and discuss the myriad of observations and experiments that are testing them (Sloan Digital Sky Survey, precision measurements of the cosmic microwave background, Keck and HST studies of the origin and evolution of galaxies, ....).

Through lectures, discussion sessions and hands-on experiences with telescopes, cryogenic detectors, and computers the participants will learn about the hot big bang model and exciting forefront developments in cosmology. The instructors will be University of Chicago faculty and research scientists as well as scientists from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, all of whom are actively involved in cosmological research. Field trips to Fermilab and the newly opened Pritzker Cosmology exhibit at the Adler Planetarium are planned.

For college teachers of: the physical sciences. Prerequisites: none

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