The Random Universe

Tuesday 28th October 2014 @ 19:00

Non-Member: £12.00 ; Staff: £5.00 ; Student: £3.00

Andrew Jaffe, Professor of Astrophysics and Cosmology, co-investigator on ESA's Planck Satellite

Hear about the oldest light in the Universe, and how it teaches us about the formation of structures on the largest scales, gravitational radiation, and what it might teach us about the multiverse.



Professor Andrew Jaffe works on various topics at Imperial including the formation of structure in the Universe and gravitational radiation, but most of his research involves the cosmic microwave background (CMB).

The CMB is the thermal radiation assumed to be left over from the "Big Bang" of cosmology. In older literature, the CMB is also variously known as cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) or "relic radiation." The CMB is a cosmic background radiation that is fundamental to observational cosmology because it is the oldest light in the universe, dating to the epoch of recombination.

Professor Jaffe is also a co-Investigator on ESA's Planck Satellite, working with many other Planck Scientists from Imperial and all over the world; and on the teams for the EBEX and PolarBear CMB experiments, which are smaller-scale balloon and ground-based experiments targeting the polarization of the CMB.

Early in 2014, there was huge excitement in the scientific community – and beyond - when researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics went public with the news that their telescope had spotted indirect evidence of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time, from the earliest moments of the universe.

They announced that they had found a faint twisting pattern in the polarization of the CMB using a South Pole-based radio telescope called BICEP2. The announcement caused a sensation because it seemed to confirm the theory of cosmic inflation, which holds that the cosmos mushroomed in size during the first fraction of a second after the Big Bang, linking to the idea that the universe is constantly giving birth to smaller "pocket" universes within an ever-expanding multiverse.

However, the astronomers who announced that they had evidence of primordial gravitational waves jumped the gun because they did not take into proper account a confounding effect of galactic dust, two new analyses suggest.

Although further observations may yet find the signal to emerge from the noise, independent experts now say they no longer believe that the original data constituted significant evidence. Confirmation may well come from the Planck satellite data, possibly later this year, and its data is likely to be better in quantity and quality.

Optionally followed by supper (this can be booked on the event booking form).
After the lecture a Friends' Table has been reserved at a local restaurant to entertain the speaker and for any of the audience who would like to join us to continue the evening's discussion. A two-course fixed price supper is served including wine, coffee and service charge.
Or if you have already booked for the event and now want to join us for supper Book Supper now

Venue: SAF Building, Imperial College London

Campus Map reference 33
on the Imperial College London Map