Talks & Events
Workshops & Events
Current & Future
Michael Meyer, ETH Zurich, "Building a Predictive Theory of Planet Formation: Extrapolation versus Phenomenology in the Era of Direct Imaging"
Planetary bodies provide suitable environments for the emergence of life. Thus knowing their distribution as a function of mass, orbital radius, and bulk composition can help constrain the possible number of habitable worlds. Observations in the accessible regions of our Galaxy provide empirical constraints on planet populations. Yet extrapolation of these results to the rest of the observable Universe requires understanding the dependence of formation and evolution on a wide range of initial conditions. On the one hand, this process is simple: small bodies grow into larger ones through collisions (and sticking) of solid particles, or through local gravitational instabilities. On the other hand, the specific outcomes depend on a large number of complex properties requiring coupled understanding of dynamics, chemistry, and radiative transfer over several orders of magnitude in solid particle size, gas density and orbital radius. I will first introduce some simple theories of planet formation, and derive expected outcomes as a function stellar mass. Then I will summarize recent observations that constrain these theories with a focus on the power of direct imaging for "model-breaking". Finally, I will discuss experiments (some underway with new IR instrumentation on 8-meter class telescopes, and others planned for future facilities) that aim to efficiently improve our understanding. One exciting prospect is the direct detection of circumplanetary disks around forming planets, which may be key to regulating planet masses.
Physics colloquium: John Carlstrom, University of Chicago, "Physics and Cosmology with the Cosmic Microwave Background"
The study of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) has driven spectacular advances in our understanding the origin, make up and evolution of our universe. We now have a standard cosmological model, ΛCDM, that fits all the cosmological data with only six parameters, although there are some tensions that may hint at that cracks in the model. Far from being the last word in cosmology, the model points to exciting times ahead using the CMB to explore new physics, i.e., inflation, dark matter, dark energy, neutrino masses and possible extra relativistic species, or dark radiation. This talk will review the current status and near term plans for CMB measurements, with emphasis on the South Pole Telescope, and discuss the plans for the next generation experimental program, CMB-S4.
All Chicago Cosmology Colloquium: Alexander Szalay, Johns Hopkins University, "Baryon Acoustic Oscillations and Redshift Space Distortions"
The talk will present results about measuring the Baryon Acoustic Oscillation signal in redshift surveys. The impacts of various effects like survey geometries, redshift space distortions, nonlinear corrections will be discussed. In particular, we will show that redshift-space distortions can substantially sharpen the BAO peak in directions close to the line of sight. We also demonstrate a detection of Baryon Acoustic Oscillations in the SDSS Main Galaxy Survey.
Seth R Siegel, California Institute of Technology, "Multiwavelength Analysis of Galaxy Clusters"
I will report on the joint analysis of X-ray, weak lensing, strong lensing, and Sunyaev-Zel'dovich (SZ) measurements of the CLASH sample of 25 massive galaxy clusters. The high-quality multiwavelength data is able to constrain more realistic parametric models for the distribution of dark and baryonic matter in the galaxy clusters, avoiding biases in mass estimates that result from the assumptions of spherical symmetry and hydrostatic equilibrium. I will present results for a subsample of the clusters, including constraints on the level of non-thermal pressure support in the intracluster medium (ICM). I will conclude by introducing the Multiwavelength Sub/millimeter Inductance Camera (MUSIC), a new photometric imaging camera for the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory that is simultaneously sensitive to four bands at 150, 230, 290, and 350 GHz, and is ideally suited for studies of the ICM through the SZ effect. I will describe the characterization and removal of noise sourced by MUSIC's Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detectors (MKIDs) and their readout electronics.
Lorenzo Moncelsi, California Institute of Technology, "Cosmology above the clouds with SPIDER"
SPIDER is a balloon-borne microwave polarimeter designed to measure cosmological B-modes on degree angular scales in the presence of Galactic foregrounds. With six independent telescopes housing a total of ~2000 detectors in the 90 GHz and 150 GHz frequency bands, SPIDER is the most instantaneously-sensitive CMB polarimeter deployed on the sky to date. SPIDER was successfully launched from McMurdo Station, Antarctica in January 2015 and acquired science data for 16 days. I will briefly cover the in-flight performance and the expected analysis challenges. Pending recovery, the SPIDER team is already planning the next flight, featuring one or two foreground-optimized channels, which will allow us constrain the primordial tensor-mode amplitude at the level of r < 0.03 (99% CL), even in the presence of foregrounds.
The Cabinet: Cosmos
The vastness of the observable universe; the seeds of ancient religious belief; a mythical faraway world; the humming network of your neighborhood streets; intricate technological systems; blood vessels inside our bodies; nerves of the brain; the world of a single cell; known and unknown totalities. All these visions conjured by this single term, with infinite possibilities remaining. Our Cosmos Cabinet is built on the idea that such a concept can inspire scientists and artists equally to inquiries and creations that will engage all who are mystified and intrigued by the connections, relationships, orders, limits and limitlessness, and the tremendous scale of the world and worlds we inhabit or imagine. Please join us for a series of performative presentations by scholars and artists from the University of Chicago and beyond, who explore cosmology and its reverberations.
Presenter & Performer Bios
KICP Dark Matter meeting
The theme will be "beyond the simple WIMP" and focusing on a broader framework of the dark matter sector.
Adler colloquium: Andy Howell, Las Cumbres Global Telescope/UC Santa Barbara, "Understanding Mysterious Sources of Energy in Supernovae"
In the past few years new classes of supernovae have been discovered that are both brighter and fainter than previously thought possible. The superluminous supernovae have luminosities 100 times greater than a core-collapse supernova, and their origin is a mystery. I will present data on two of the most distant and best-observed events from the Supernova Legacy Survey, and the first radiative transfer model that gives insight into their origin. They seem to result from the creation and spin-down of a magnetar. I'll also discuss a range of both normal and exotic supernovae from the local universe, including an even newer class of superluminous supernovae, and show how new observations are revealing or limiting SN progenitors for the first time. The Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT) is one of the latest tools allowing new kinds of observations with its 11 node network of one and two meter robotic telescopes spanning the globe. We have now begun the LCOGT Supernova Key Project, which will collect the largest sample of low-redshift supernovae ever obtained: lightcurves and spectroscopy on 450 supernovae over 3 years for use in cosmology, understanding explosions, and determining supernova progenitors.
Mark SubbaRao, Adler Planetarium, "The Future of the Planetarium"
The first planetarium was developed over 90 years ago. Today thousands of planetaria exist all across the world. This talk will argue that the future of the planetarium is to make the transformation to a big data visualization facility. After reviewing the state of the art in planetarium visualization the talk will conclude with a invitation for University researchers to visualize their data sets at the Adler Planetarium.
Speaker Biography: Mark SubbaRao is the Director of the Space Visualization Laboratory at the Adler Planetarium. He received his bachelors degree in engineering physics at Lehigh University and his Ph.D from Johns Hopkins University in astrophysics. His Ph.D thesis concerned the characterization and evolution of the luminosity function of galaxies. After obtaining his degree he worked as a post doctoral researcher at the University of Chicago on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey a project to make a 3D map of the Universe. He has led the development of major exhibition galleries at the Adler such as “The Universe: A Walk Through Time and Space” and has also produced, written and directed a number of stereoscopic videos and full-dome planetarium shows. These include the planetarium shows “Welcome to the Universe” and “Cosmic Wonder.” His visualizations have been widely shown in print and television. He was part of a team that created a first-prize-winning visualization in the 2011 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge. He was also on a team that was awarded the best visualization at XCEDE 2013. Dr. SubbaRao chairs the international Planetarium Society’s Task Force on Science and Data Visualization, which seeks to realize the potential of the planetarium as a scientific visualization tool.
Broader Horizons: Stephen Hoover, Civis Analytics
In mid-2014, I left a postdoc as a cosmologist at the University of Chicago to join Civis Analytics as a "data scientist". Civis is a 2-year old Chicago-based tech company that helps organizations use the data they have to connect with the people they care about. Data science is the core of Civis's business, and to us that means smart applications of statistics and machine learning to make sense of real-world person-level data. In this talk, I'll describe what a data scientist does at Civis Analytics, how my PhD in physics prepared me for what I do now, and what a physicist or astronomer could do to prepare for a transition to data science.
Kavli Prize Lecture: Michael E. Brown, California Institute of Technology, "Tales from the Outer Solar System"
Join us on Thursday, March 5, from 7:30 to 9:30 pm for the first Kavli Prize Lecture and Q&A session by 2012 Kavli Prize Laureate in Astrophysics, Michael E. Brown, from the California Institute of Technology. Following the Q&A portion of the lecture guests will have a chance to interact with Michael Brown and Adler astronomers during a reception in the Welcome Gallery. Coffee and refreshments will be served. The past decade has seen an explosion in the discoveries of Pluto-sized and near Pluto-sized bodies in the outer Solar System, giving rise to a new classification of "dwarf planets." Like Pluto, each of these largest dwarf planets has a unique story to tell about the history and evolution of the Solar System. Dr. Brown will discuss the discoveries of these objects and the new views of giant collisions, stellar encounters, and planetary rearrangement that we are gaining from their study. Finally, he will show intriguing new evidence that there is an even larger object lurking far beyond these dwarf planets. This object, if we can find it, will finally silence the lingering questions about Pluto and planethood, for this object, if we can find it, will be the new rightful 9th planet.
Michael E. Brown has been a professor of planetary astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) since 2003. His team has discovered many trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), notably the dwarf planet Eris, the only known TNO more massive than Pluto. He has referred to himself as the man who "killed Pluto", because he furthered Pluto being downgraded to a dwarf planet in the aftermath of the discovery of Eris and several other probable trans-Neptunian dwarf planets. He is the author of How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, published in 2010.
There will be a live domecast of this presentation to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Peoria Riverfront Museum, and the Flandrau Planetarium in Tucson, Arizona.
Karen Kolb Flude, Aging with Ease, Forward Chicago, "Astrophysics for Older Adults"
The KICP has a substantial astronomy/physics/cosmology outreach effort underway at Chicago City Senior Centers, in which we've brought astronomy and physics content to ~200 seniors free of charge, followed by subsidized field trips to the Adler Planetarium. If you think you might be interested in participating, this is the perfect opportunity to get involved. The session will be led by gerontologist Karen Kolb Flude, gerontologist, and KICP postdoc Daniel Grin, on Thursday March 5th, 10 AM-12 PM, in the LASR Building, in the central conference room. The session will begin with a short overview of our existing program. We'll then hear from Karen Flude about the motivation for lifelong learning and senior outreach, the specific challenges seniors face worldwide, and then some important tools for participating in senior outreach effectively. The session will wrap up with an opportunity for attendees to show the group any existing presentation material and then get helpful feedback on tailoring it to a senior citizen audience.
Astronomy Open House for Prospective Graduate Students
NSF's Google Hangout with KICP
NSF-funded Physics Frontiers Centers are pushing the frontiers of science across the disciplines of physics. The Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP) tackles the big questions in cosmology - dark matter, dark energy and how the Universe began. At 2 pm ET / 1 pm CT on Monday, March 9, the NSF Physics Division will host a live hour-long Google Hangout with KICP. We'll talk with the KICP Director and other members about the exciting science going on there including research on the cosmic microwave background and dark matter as well as the center itself and its innovative activities in graduate and postdoctoral education and programs that advance the broader understanding of science. You'll even be able to participate in the discussion using Twitter! No matter what your area of physics or the stage of your physics education or career, tune in to hear all about KICP and just what makes it a PFC.
Gary Zank, University of Alabama at Huntsville, "Plasma Physics of Astereospheric Boundary Regions in a Partially Ionized Interstellar Medium e.g., the Heliosphere"
Many stars find themselves in an environment that is partially ionized, including our Sun. The coupling of typically neutral H and plasma plays a fundamental role in determining the structure and properties of the outer boundaries between the stellar wind and the ISM. The plasma itself is modified significantly by the creation of pickup ions, which are now of considerable interest in the heliospheric example. Pickup ions (PUIs) in the outer heliosphere and the very local interstellar medium (VLISM) are created by charge exchange between protons and hydrogen (H) atoms, forming a thermodynamically dominant component. In the supersonic solar wind beyond ~10 AU, in the inner heliosheath (IHS), and in the VLISM, PUIs do not equilibrate collisionally with the background plasma. Using a collisionless form of Chapman-Enskog expansion, we derive a closed system of multi-fluid equations for a plasma comprised of thermal protons and electrons, and suprathermal PUIs. The PUIs contribute an isotropic scalar pressure to leading order, a collisionless heat flux at the next order, and a collisionless stress tensor at the second-order. The collisionless heat conduction and viscosity in the multi-fluid description results from a non-isotropic PUI distribution. A simpler 1-fluid MHD-like system of equations with distinct equations of state for both the background plasma and the PUIs is derived. We discuss briefly linear wave properties in a PUI-mediated 3-fluid plasma model for parameters appropriate to the VLISM, the IHS, and the solar wind in the outer heliosphere. Five distinct wave modes are possible: Alfven waves, thermal fast and slow magnetoacoustic waves, PUI fast and slow magnetoacoustic waves, and an entropy mode. The thermal and PUI acoustic modes propagate at approximately the combined thermal magnetoacoustic speed and the PUI sound speed respectively. All wave modes experience damping by the PUIs through the collisionless PUI heat flux. The PUI-mediated plasma model yields wave properties, including Alfven waves, distinctly different from those of a standard 2-fluid plasma model.
Broader Horizons: Reid Sherman, "Career Phase Transition: Finding work in science policy"
As a AAAS Policy Fellow in NASA's Earth Science Division, Reid Sherman gets to see how the US government thinks about its satellite resources, and how decisions get made about the future of earth science research and climate monitoring systems. Prior to that, he has worked for both for-profit and non-profit institutions, and studied the STEM workforce and the state of American postdocs. In this talk, he'll share how he moved from academia into government, what policy work is really like, and some lessons he's learned about making the career transition.
Winter 2015 Postdocs Symposium
American Society on Aging Workshop: "Bringing Astrophysics to Older Adults"
Location: Michigan A (East Tower, Bronze Level) , Hyatt Regency Chicago
This session will highlight a new program to bring astrophysics to older adults, where older Chicagoans are learning all about space from the researchers themselves. Come learn about how the physicists were prepared to work with older adults, how the programming was marketed and implemented, and the outcomes of this novel project.
1. Increase understanding of opportunities to interact with University or Research settings and to bring their expertise to older adults in your community.
2. Identify components of the training that was provided to prepare astrophysics faculty to have a successful presentation to older adults.
3. Recognize the different marketing and outreach techniques used to bring older audiences to the project and programming.
4. Develop ideas for replication of high level programming in their own communities.
5. Learn about the experience of and lessons learned by a physics researcher working with older adults and the aging network, and bringing their expertise to a new audience.
1. Physicists learned how to better reach older audiences
2. Older adults were exposed to high level science programming
3. Collaboration between the University of Chicago, Chicago Department on Aging and other community-based organizations.
4. Development of a model to unite university faculty with older adult programming.
Astronomy Conversations: Megan Bedell and Sean Mills, "Exoplanets"
Have you always wanted to meet the people behind the science at the Adler? During Astronomy Conversations, you can exchange ideas with Adler space science and technology experts and learn more about ongoing Adler projects.
Broader Horizons: Krista Martocci, Software Engineer @ Gro Intelligence
I am currently working at a small start up company called Gro Intelligence, which has offices in Nairobi and New York City. Our main focus is increasing the quality and access to data of agricultural commodities as well as the environmental and market effects that relate to agriculture. I will talk about my current role as a software engineer and how I adjusted from astrophysics, and what it is like to work at a start up as compared to academia.
Harper Lecture: Edward W. "Rocky" Kolb, "Brave New Worlds"
UChicago's astronomers travel from Hyde Park to all continents of the world, as well as outer space, to explore the universe. In this lecture, Edward W. "Rocky" Kolb will describe the quest of UChicago astronomers to unlock the mysteries of the universe: dark matter, dark energy, and the possibility that we are not alone.
Edward W. Kolb (usually known as Rocky) is the dean of the Division of the Physical Sciences and the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the College at the University of Chicago. He is the founding head of the Theoretical Astrophysics Group, the founding director of the Particle Astrophysics Center at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Physical Society, and the recipient of numerous teaching awards. Kolb's book The Early Universe, coauthored with Michael Turner, is the standard textbook on particle physics and cosmology.
Cosmosis Conversation: "The Artist and Scientist: Understanding Our Universe and Place Within featuring Sarah and Joseph Belknap + Jacob Bean"
Join us for a conversation between COSMOSIS artist-duo Sarah and Joseph Belknap and exoplanet-expert Jacob Bean as they orbit topics relating to art, experimentation, and our existence within the environment of space. This intimate discussion will give the audience a chance to listen and ask questions about the Belkaps and Bean's processes, allowing for greater access and understanding of the fields of art and science.
81st Compton Lectures: Andrew McCann, "Nature's Timepiece: The Exotic World of Pulsars"
Every Saturday morning beginning April 4, through June 6, 2015; lectures start at 11:00 a.m. (No lecture on May 23rd, Memorial Day weekend).
Neutron stars are born in the final moments of the supernova death of massive stars and, in keeping with their exotic origin, they exhibit unmatched extremes in a variety of ways. Not only are they the smallest stars we know of, neutron stars are the most dense solid objects in the known Universe. Their surface gravity is 100 billion times that of the Earth and their magnetic fields' strengths, which can reach 1015 Gauss, are the strongest known to exist. Neutron stars are born rotating rapidly and their emission, like the beam from a lighthouse, is observed as a highly stable and regular periodic pulsation - hence the name 'pulsating star' or 'pulsar'. Although pulsars were discovered over 40 years ago and the number of known pulsars exceeds 2400, the physical processes which power the vast array of unique and often bizarre phenomena observed from pulsars are poorly understood. Explaining the observed behaviour of neutron stars has become one of the most challenging puzzles in high-energy astrophysics. Despite the longstanding mystery of their emission, the steady and predictable pulsations from pulsars make them remarkably powerful astrophysical tools. This duality has put pulsars at the centre of some of the most compelling astrophysical research of the last few decades.
Each week we will explore different aspects of this duality, by reviewing pulsar phenomena in different wave bands (radio, optical, x-ray, gamma-ray) and by discussing the role of pulsars in tests of Einstein's theory of relativity and in the search for gravitational waves. No scientific background is required -- just bring your curiosity.
Purpose of the Compton Lecture Series
The purpose of these lectures is to make accessible some of the remarkable recent developments in physical science to the non-specialized public, and to share with laymen some of the intellectual and cultural excitement associated with scientific developments that may affect in some way the lives of all of us and are a significant part of our cultural heritage. The lectures often, but not exclusively, are focused on areas of research being pursued at the Enrico Fermi Institute.
The idea of these lectures originated with John Simpson when he was Director of the EFI and holder of the Compton chair. Funds from a bequest of John W. Watzek, a good friend of Compton, supported the lectures from 1976 through 1986. Presently, funding is provided within the budget of the Enrico Fermi Institute, with much welcome additional support from C. Spencer Powell.
From the outset, Compton lecturers have been nominated by the Director of the EFI from the group of young scientists active in research as Fellows or post-doctoral associates. It is this group, which is in many cases at the center of research, that attacks frontier questions with a fresh view and new ideas. Awarding the Compton Lectureship to the best of these scientists is in general appreciated as a sign of recognition and encouragement that seems more important than the modest stipend also included in the award. Compton lectures are neither given by graduate students nor by full-time faculty members.
Compton lectures are presented in every Spring and Fall quarter; each set of lectures comprise 10 one-hour presentation on successive Saturday mornings in the Kersten Physics Lecture Hall. The lectures are advertised through letters and posters sent to area high schools, libraries, colleges and to individuals, through local newspapers and radio stations (WFMT), and by word of mouth. Depending on the popularity of a particular lecture (or topic), the attendance varies from fifty to "standing room only", and includes people with a wide variety of backgrounds: from faculty to laypersons, and from Hyde Parkers to commuters from distant suburbs.
Of the 78 lecturers since 1976, ten have held faculty positions at the University of Chicago, and many now have faculty positions elsewhere. There are at least two books (Robert Wald - Space, Time and Gravity, UC Press, 1977) and (Nickolas Solomey - The Elusive Neutrino: A Subatomic Detective Story, Scientific American Library, New York, 1997) which grew out of a set of successful Compton Lectures.
Harper Lecture: Stephan Meyer, "Researching the Universe in Antarctica"
The South Pole Station is an important observatory for astrophysics and cosmology research, but because of the extreme conditions and remoteness of the site, designing, constructing, and operating its research tools is a challenge and an adventure. Several telescopes operate throughout the night - which lasts six months in Antarctica - gathering information on cosmic microwave background radiation and distant clusters of galaxies to explore how the universe as we know it evolved.
Stephan Meyer, LAB'70, a member of the South Pole Telescope team, will talk about the science being investigated with these telescopes and the excitement of carrying out research on the Antarctic continent. Meyer is a professor in the Departments of Astronomy & Astrophysics and Physics, the Enrico Fermi Institute, and the College. He was a postdoctoral associate and then assistant professor of physics at MIT before joining the University of Chicago faculty in 1993.
CMB Spectral Distortion Workshop
The Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP) at the University of Chicago is hosting a workshop on CMB spectral distortions.
The frequency spectrum of the Cosmic Microwave Background has been shown to be a blackbody to a precision of 50 parts per million. However, at higher sensitivity the CMB is expected to show distortions from the blackbody shape. These distortions contain the signatures of energy-releasing processes in the early universe. A new experiment could improve the sensitivity to distortions by a factor of 1000 or more, opening a new window into the physics of the early universe.
This workshop will explore the science potential and design requirements for such an experiment. A series of working sessions will examine the spectral signatures from different effects, instrument trades to reach different sensitivity levels, and data analysis techniques to maximize the science return from the spatial/spectral maps.
The conference will be three days, Monday May 18 through Wednesday May 20.