April 1, 2019 at 4:00 pm

Special Colloquium | Dr. Robert Kirshner on ‘Accelerating Science in an Accelerating Universe,’ May 2

Robert P. Kirshner, portrait outdoors

Dr. Robert P. Kirshner

A Special Physics & Astronomy Colloquium features Dr. Robert P. Kirshner discussing “Accelerating Science in an Accelerating Universe” on Thursday, May 2, at 3:30 p.m. in Walter Hall 235.

Kirshner has made groundbreaking contributions in several areas of astronomy, including the physics of exploding stars seen as supernovae, supernova remnants, the large-scale structure of the cosmos, and the use of supernovae to measure the expansion of the universe. Kirshner is Clowes Research Professor of Science at Harvard University and Chief Program Officer for Science at the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, where he leads a team responsible for distributing more than $100 million per year for research and technology to enable fundamental scientific discoveries.

Abstract: This is not my first visit to Ohio University. As a high school junior, I spent the summer in Athens, working in the Physics Department on an NSF-sponsored summer program. This experience helped set me on my path as a scientist that helped propel me to Harvard as an undergraduate, on to Caltech for a Ph.D., to Michigan, and then back to Harvard as a faculty member. After 30 years at Harvard studying supernovae and using them to trace the accelerating history of cosmic expansion, I have shifted the center of my effort to helping to accelerate scientific progress through the careful use of the Moore Foundation’s philanthropic funds for basic science. In this talk, I’ll give a brief sketch of the Moore Foundation and a few examples of our work, then describe the discovery of cosmic acceleration, which was a very big surprise in 1998. I’ll show how current evidence has improved our picture for cosmic acceleration, and how observations of supernovae at infrared wavelengths can help, but I will not provide a decisive answer to the nature of the dark energy. Is it Einstein’s Cosmological Constant, or is it something else? Either way is astonishing.

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