11th Annual Biard Lecture: "The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars"
March 27th, 2019 7pm
Ohio Union Performance Hall
In the 1870s, before women had the right to vote or a firm standing in the workplace, a lucky few found employment at the Harvard College Observatory. The first female assistants were born to the work—as the wives, daughters, and sisters of the resident astronomers.
Over time other ladies joined the group, thanks to the director’s farsighted hiring practices and the introduction of photography to astronomy. Instead of observing through the telescope by night, the women could analyze the stars in daylight on glass photographic plates. Harvard's female workforce grew accordingly, and its individual members won national and international acclaim for their discoveries. The Glass Universe.
Dava Sobel, a former New York Times science reporter, is the author of Longitude (Walker 1995 and 2005, Penguin 1996), Galileo's Daughter (Walker 1999 and 2011, Penguin 2000), The Planets (Viking 2005, Penguin 2006), and A More Perfect Heaven (Walker / Bloomsbury, 2011 and 2012). She has also co-authored six books, including Is Anyone Out There? with astronomer Frank Drake. A long-time science contributor to Harvard Magazine, Audubon, Discover, Life, Omni, and The New Yorker, she currently writes for the on-line Aeon.
10th Annual Biard Lecture: "Planet Nine from Outer Space"
March 7th, 2018 6:30pm
COSI - National Geographic Giant Screen Movie Theater
Recent evidence suggests that a massive body is lurking at the outskirts of our solar system, far beyond the orbits of the known giant planets. This object, at a distance approximately 20 times further than Neptune and with a mass approximately 5000 times larger that Pluto, is the real ninth planet of the solar system. I will talk about the observation that led us to the evidence for this Planet Nine and discuss how so massive an object could have been hiding in the outer solar system for so long. Finally I will discuss the international effort to pinpoint this newest member of our planetary family.
Mike Brown is a Professor of Planetary Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology where he teaches classes from introductory physics to the science of the solar system. He is a native of Huntsville, Alabama, where he grew up listening to the tests of the Saturn rockets preparing to go to the moon, and he received his undergraduate degree in physics from Princeton University and his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California at Berkeley. He and his research group spend their time searching for and studying the most distant objects in the solar system and drinking coffee.
Watch the video of the lecture here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTKeqDkl2Vc&feature=youtu.be
9th Annual Biard Lecture: "The Exploration of Pluto"
February 15th, 2017 7pm
COSI - National Geographic Giant Screen Movie Theater
New Horizons is NASA's historic mission to explore the Pluto system and the Kuiper Belt. The fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons left Earth on 19 January 2006. It made the first exploration of the Pluto system--3 billion miles from Earth--summer 2015, culminating with a highly successful flyby inside the orbits of all five of Pluto's moons on July 14th. Dr. Stern will describe the history of the mission, the encounter with planet Pluto, and the major scientific discoveries made to date.
Dr. Alan Stern is a planetary scientist, space program executive, aerospace consultant, and author. He leads NASA's New Horizons mission to that successfully explored the Pluto system and is now exploring the Kuiper Belt-the farthest worlds ever explored by a space mission.
8th Annual Biard Lecture: "Our Mathematical Universe: From Primordial Gravity Waves to Precision Cosmology"
November 19th, 2014 7:15pm
Schoenbaum Hall Room 105
I survey how we humans have repeatedly underestimated not only the size of our cosmos, but also the power of our humans minds to understand it using mathematical equations. My examples include the recent claims of B-modes in the cosmic microwave background as smoking-gun evidence for quantum gravity, Hawking radiation, and cosmological inflation. I also highlight mysteries such as the nature of dark matter, dark energy and our early universe, and how creating the largest-ever 3D maps of our universe can shed new light on them.
Known as "Mad Max" for his unorthodox ideas and passion for adventure, his scientific interests range from precision cosmology to the ultimate nature of reality, all explored in his new popular book "Our Mathematical Universe". He is an MIT physics professor with more than two hundred technical papers and has featured in dozens of science documentaries. His work with the SDSS collaboration on galaxy clustering shared the first prize in Science magazine's "Breakthrough of the Year: 2003."
7th Annual Biard Lecture: "Dissecting Galaxies With the Hubble Space Telescope"
November 13th, 2013 6:30pm
Fawcett Center - Conference Theater
Galaxies are complex systems of stars, gas, and dark matter. These three major components interact in many different ways, leading galaxies to have the structure and motions we see today. I will discuss the current paradigm for galaxy formation, and show how some of the most beautiful Hubble Space Telescope observations can be used to extract detailed histories of the nearest galaxies, providing some of the most rigorous constraints on the physics that controls galaxy formation.
Julianne Dalcanton is a Professor of Astronomy, at the University of Washington, and researcher for Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Her main work is on the area of galaxy formation and evolution. She is currently leading the ACS Nearby Galaxy Survey Treasury (ANGST) program on the Hubble Space Telescope.
She became known worldwide by discovering the comet C/1999 F2, which is named after her. She is also a contributor to the physics blog Cosmic Variance.
6th Annual Biard Lecture: "SETI at 50+ Five Decades of Progress in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence"
November 7th, 2012 8:00pm
McPherson Lab Room 1000
The 1959 Nature article by Giuseppe Cocconi and Phil Morrison provided the theoretical underpinnings for SETI. Well over 100 search programs have been conducted since that time, including the long-running survey using the Ohio State University Radio Observatory. Most of these searches have been looking for photons at radio and optical wavelengths, but others have probed for exotic physics and astroengineering projects; none has yet been successful.
Critics have suggested that this means humans are alone in the cosmos. But that is far too strong a conclusion to draw from far too small an observational sampling. An appropriate analogy would be to retrieve one glass of water from the ocean, and having found no fish in that sample, to conclude that there were no fish in the ocean.
Instead of concluding that intelligent life on Earth is unique, it is more appropriate to note that in 50+ years our ability to search for electromagnetic signals has improved by at least 14 orders of magnitude and that these improvements are still occurring at an exponential rate. In addition, in the past 50+ years, the detection of exoplanets, and a growing appreciation of the robustness of extremophiles on our own planet have given the cosmos at least an appearance of being more biofriendly.
If we are looking in the right way, our observational tools will evolve to sample sufficiently large volumes of phase space before SETI turns 100, that evidence for cosmic company can reasonably be expected. If we are not yet looking in the right way, this same exponential growth in our astronomical tools and in new technologies may well uncover evidence of a type we are not wise enough today to predict.
"The probability of success is difficult to estimate, but if we never search, the chance of success is zero." (Cocconi and Morrison, 1959)
Jill Tarter holds the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, seti.org) at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. Tarter received her Bachelor of Engineering Physics Degree with Distinctionfrom Cornell University and her Master's Degree and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a Fellow of the AAAS and of the California Academy of Sciences, where she also serves on the Board of Trustees. She is passionate about science education and strives to secure funding for SETI research, particularly with the Allen Telescope Array. Tarter's work has brought her wide recognition, including two Public Service Medals from NASA. In 2004 Time Magazine named her one of the Time 100 most influential people in the world. Tarter was one of three TED prizewinners in 2009, and was a recipient of the Silicon Valley Women of Influence 2010 Award. Many people are now familiar with her work as portrayed by Jodie Foster in the movie Contact.
5th Annual Biard Lecture: "Sizing Up the Universe: The Cosmos in Perspective"
J. Richard Gott III
April 18th, 2012 5:00pm
McPherson Lab Room 1000
The Sun is so large that a million Earths could fit inside it, yet there are stars much larger than the Sun, and the distances between stars and galaxies are truly awesome. The large sizes encountered in astronomy are part of its fascination, but depicting them is perhaps astronomy's greatest challenge. Professor Gott will tell about his Map of the Universe, which preserves shapes (as the Mercator map of the Earth does), but which allows him to plot everything from satellites in Earth orbit to the moon and planets to distant stars and galaxies, out to the cosmic microwave background, the most distant thing we can see -- all on a single map. The L.A. Times compared it to famous maps over the centuries, calling it "arguably the most mind-bending map to date." Professor Gott will tell how he got in the 2012 Guinness Book of Records for measuring the "largest structure in the universe," the Sloan Great Wall -- 1.37 billion light years long. He will show size comparisons and maps from his new National Geographic book Sizing Up the Universe, in collaboration with Professor Robert J. Vanderbei, answering such questions as, how big was Hurricane Katrina compared to the Great Red Spot (a centuries-old storm on Jupiter)? A series of size comparisons, each covering a scale a thousand times larger than the one before, will show everything from Buzz Aldrin's footprint on the moon, to asteroids, moons, planets, stars, black holes, and galaxies, ending with the first real picture of the entire visible universe.
J. Richard Gott is noted for his contributions to cosmology and general relativity. He has received the Robert J. Trumpler Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, the Astronomical League Award, and Princeton's President's Award for Distinguished Teaching. He discovered exact solutions to Einstein's field equations for the gravitational field around one cosmic string (in 1985) and two moving cosmic strings (in 1991). This second solution has been of particular interest because, if the strings move fast enough, at nearly the speed of light, time travel to the past can occur. His paper with Li-Xin Li, "Can the Universe Create Itself?" explores the idea of how the laws of physics may permit the universe to be its own mother. His book Time Travel in Einstein's Universe was selected by Booklist as one of four "Editors' Choice" science books for 2001. He has published papers on map projections in Cartographica. His picture has appeared Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times. He wrote an article on time travel for Time magazine as part of its cover story on the future (April 10, 2000). His and Mario Juric's Map of the Universe appeared in the New York Times (January 13, 2004), New Scientist, and Astronomy. Gott and Juric are in Guinness World Records 2006 for finding the largest structure in the universe: the Sloan Great Wall of Galaxies (1.37 billion light years long). Gott's Copernican argument for space colonization was the subject of an article in the New York Times (July 17, 2007).
Sizing Up the Universe
Sizing Up the Universe reveals an ingenious new way to envision the outsize proportions of space, based on the work of Princeton University professors Richard Gott and Robert Vanderbei. Using scaled maps, object comparisons, and beautiful space photographs, it demonstrates the actual size of objects in the cosmos -- from Buzz Aldrin's historic footprint to the visible universe and beyond. The authors offer visual comparisons with astonishing precision and maximum reader-friendliness, conveying clear and understandable explanations of unimaginable vastness. Plus, as an unprecedented bonus, their 1.5-million-selling Map of the Universe is published here for the first time ever in a book -- presented on an oversize foldout page that maximizes its eye-popping presentation of satellites, planets, stars, and galaxies. Based on the popularity of the map and of Richard Gott's Time Travel in Einstein's Universe, and offering innovative ways to appreciate the majesty of the universe, this new title should soar.
4th Annual Biard Lecture: "The Future of Human Space Exploration: A Panel Discussion with Luminary NASA Astronauts"
Senator John Glenn, John M. Grunsfeld, Ph.D., and the Honorable Harrison H. Schmitt
November 21st, 2010 2:00pm
Join historic NASA astronauts whose collective careers have spanned the Mercury, Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs for a lively and informative panel discussion that celebrates the achievements of NASA's manned space program and explores the future of space exploration. Featured panelists will be Senator John Glenn (Ret.) - Mercury-6/STS-95, John M. Grunsfeld, Ph.D. - STS 67/81/103/109/125 and the Honorable Harrison H. Schmitt - Apollo 17.
3rd Annual Biard Lecture: "BLAST! The Movie - Welcome to Astrophysics Indiana Jones style!"
Mark Delvin, PhD and Paul Delvin
December 1st, 2009 5:00pm
Physics Research Building Atrium
Filmmaker Paul Devlin follows the story of his brother, Mark Devlin PhD, as he leads a tenacious team of scientists hoping to figure out how all the galaxies formed by launching a revolutionary new telescope under a NASA high-altitude balloon.
Their adventure takes them from Arctic Sweden to Inuit polar bear country in Canada, where catastrophic failure forces the team to try all over again on the desolate ice in Antarctica. No less than the understanding of the evolution and origins of our Universe is at stake on this exciting escapade that seeks to answer humankind's most basic question, How did we get here?
BLAST! is about the crazy life of scientists. Their professional obsessions, personal and family sacrifices, and philosophical and religious questioning all give emotional resonance to a spectacular and suspenseful story of space exploration.
Mark Delvin PhD
The Reese W. Flower Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, at the University of Pennsylvania, Mark Devlin is an experimental cosmologist. He designs and constructs the devices that collect the data that help us understand our universe. Rather than working out theories on a chalkboard, he's more likely to be found crawling inside the frame of a car-sized telescope, soldering gun in hand, or standing on the windswept ice of Antarctica preparing to send that high-tech appliance to the very edge of space on a NASA balloon.
Mark's recent projects include BLAST (Balloon-Borne, Large-Aperture, Submillimeter Telescope) a sophisticated scanning device that detects submillimeter light from distance star-forming dust clouds while suspended beneath a NASA high-altitude balloon at the top of the atmosphere.
A five-time Emmy winner for his work on NBC's Olympics and CBS's Tour de France, Paul Devlin's films include Power Trip, which screened in 60 countries, theatrically across the United States and on PBS's Independent Lens, was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and has won 10 film festival awards, including top prizes at Berlin, Hot Docs in Toronto, and Florida.
2nd Annual Biard Lecture: "Mysteries of the Universe"
October 29th, 2008
Ninety-five percent of the universe is missing! Astronomical observations suggest that most of the mass of the universe is in a mysterious form called dark matter and most of the energy in the universe is in an even more mysterious form called dark energy. We have no understanding of the nature of the stuff that makes up our universe. In a nontechnical discussion, I will outline the evidence for dark matter and dark energy, and discuss why cosmologists feel that unlocking the secrets of dark matter and dark energy will illuminate the nature of space and time and connect the quantum with the cosmos.
Edward W. Kolb (known to most as Rocky) is the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor of Astronomy & Astrophysics and the College and Chair of the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, as well as a member of the Enrico Fermi Institute and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics. The field of Rocky's research is the application of elementary-particle physics to the very early Universe. In addition to over 200 scientific papers, he is a co-author of The Early Universe, the standard textbook on particle physics and cosmology.
1st Annual Biard Lecture: "Exploding Stars and the Accelerating Cosmos: A Blunder Undone"
Professor Robert P. Kirshner
October 17th, 2007
Recent observations of exploding stars located halfway across the Universe reveal an astonishing fact: the expansion of the Universe is speeding up! This suggests that empty space itself is the source of a mysterious "dark energy" that drives cosmic acceleration. Curiously, when Albert Einstein first thought about the role of gravity acting throughout the Universe in 1917, he imagined a repulsive "cosmological constant" that would balance out the attractive effects of gravitation. After the expansion of our Universe was clearly established by astronomers, Einstein regarded this cosmological term as a mistake. Modern observations show that we need something that acts very much like Einstein's discarded cosmological constant to account for an accelerating universe. And we need a lot of it-- dark energy accounts for 70% of the universe today. This talk will show how astronomers use supernova explosions to trace cosmic history and will sketch some of the plans to learn more about the nature of the dark energy through observations.
Robert P. Kirshner is Harvard College Professor of Astronomy and Clowes Professor of Science at Harvard University. The author of over 200 scientific publications, Kirshner has also written for a broader public in National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, Natural History, and Scientific American magazines and is a frequent public speaker on science. His award-winning popular-level book The Extravagant Universe: Exploding Stars, Dark Energy, and the Accelerating Cosmos is now in paperback from Princeton University Press and has been translated into 4 languages.
At Harvard, Kirshner teaches a large undergraduate course for students who are not concentrating in the sciences called The Energetic Universe. Kirshner is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He has just finished a term as President of the American Astronomical Society. In September 2007, Kirshner and his colleagues of the High-Z Supernova Team (including many of his former students and postdocs) shared the Gruber Prize in Cosmology.