New views of universe attracting scientists to Chicago Dec. 9-13

12/02/05

Meeting will honor influential University of Chicago cosmologist David Schramm, inaugurate Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics

Scientists will puzzle over the physics of the beginning of the universe, a mysterious force called dark energy that works against gravity, and many other cosmic mysteries at the University of Chicago's New Views of the Universe symposium Dec. 9 to 13.

More than 200 scientists, students and journalists have registered for the symposium, which will be held from Dec. 9 to 13 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago. The meeting will be the inaugural symposium of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago.

The event will honor the memory of the late David Schramm, the University of Chicago cosmologist who pioneered the study of the early universe and invented a new field called particle astrophysics. In this field, scientists study the connections between forces and objects at the largest and smallest scales of the universe.

In the early 1980s, Dave Schramm saw science coming together at two extremes: the very small of elementary particle physics, and the very large of cosmology, said Michael Turner, the Bruce and Diana Rauner Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics. "It was his vision, enthusiasm, energy and passion that pushed this field forward," Turner said.

Schramm died in a twin-engine airplane crash in 1997 at the age of 52. Standing six-foot-three and weighing 230 pounds, Schramm presented an imposing figure both physically and intellectually, becoming one of the world's leading authorities on the big bang theory of the origin of the universe.

On the first day of the New Views symposium, nine of Schramm's colleagues and former students will review his scientific legacy. The day will conclude with a talk by Nobel laureate Leon Lederman at a banquet held at the University of Chicago's new Center for Integrative Science. Schramm and Lederman co-authored From Quarks to the Cosmos: Tools of Discovery, a book for the lay reader that described the new-found relationships between particle physics and cosmology.

In the following days, scientists will present some of their latest ideas about the origin and evolution of the universe, some of which are closely associated with Schramm. Some of his most important work described how the light elements such has hydrogen, helium and lithium were produced by the big bang, which helped establish current thinking about the birth of the universe.

Schramm also performed key calculations showing that ordinary matter, consisting of the familiar protons and neutrons, accounts for only a fraction of the mass of the universe. This prompted him to become an early proponent of the dark matter theory. According to this theory, invisible particles of an unknown nature account for more than 90 percent of all matter in the universe.

"What is dark matter?" was listed as one of 11 science questions for the new century by the National Research Council's Committee on the Physics of the Universe in its 2003 report. The report, titled Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos, was dedicated to Schramm.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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