Workshops & Events
Michael Meyer, ETH Zurich, "Building a Predictive Theory of Planet Formation: Extrapolation versus Phenomenology in the Era of Direct Imaging"
January 12, 2015 | LASR conference room | 1:30 PM

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"
January 22, 2015 | KPTC 106 | 4:00 PM

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"
February 9, 2015 | room One West, Fermilab's Wilson Hall | 2:00 PM

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.

CMB Spectral Distortion Workshop
May 18 - 20, 2015 | Chicago, IL

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.
  • The first day, Monday, will include an overview of the scientific questions accessible with CMB spectral distortion measurements, both from a theoretical and experimental perspective. These include predictions for the type and amplitude of distortions due to specific energy inputs in the early universe as well as predictions for the competing Galactic foreground emission. Experimental considerations include the sensitivity and accuracy of possible instruments and the trade space for optimization.
  • The second day, Tuesday, will consist of splinter sessions followed by short plenary reports. The goal is to allow workshop participants to exchange ideas and potentially develop collaborations for future research. Each splinter session will have a workshop leader who will give a brief splinter report. Reports from earlier sessions will inform and modify later sessions as freewheeling discussion leads to new critical topics. The topics for the splinter sessions are open for modification. The last topic of the Monday program is to update the splinter session topics. Suggestions for additional topics are invited.
  • The third day, Wednesday, will consist of topical reviews of the activities leading into a discussion of priorities for future research, both theoretical and experimental.