Friday, May 9th, 2014
Dr. Arielle Phillips
Notre Dame Department of Physics & Astronomy
In the Neighborhood:
Of Galaxies, Nobel Laureates and Gummy Worms
We will journey from the cosmic web that envelops galaxies as they form, to a network of scientists that made a Nobel Prize winning discovery, and finally to the sinuous lengths of gummy worms to explore what they reveal about the very nature of light.
The formation, evolution, and chemical composition of galaxies are influenced by their interactions with the material immediately around them, or circumgalactic medium. Beyond this lies the intergalactic medium (IGM) which is composed of extensive clusters, filaments, and sheets of galaxies with vast empty expanses (voids) between them. We use a modified computer vision algorithm to identify and extract structures in large-scale simulations (clusters, filaments, voids.) Our understanding of the physical properties and extent of IGM structures leads to a clearer interpretation of their role in the evolution of galaxies and the surrounding circumgalactic medium.
Artistic representations of science tend to focus on the individual scientist with a marked preference for the single genius. The discovery of the accelerating universe, which involved two international teams, totaling fifty scientists, demonstrates how collaboration has become a central component of the scientific process. The High Z Project will give the public an insider’s perspective into the unusually non-hierarchical nature of the collaboration between the twenty scientists on the High Z Supernovae Search Team. Through a hybrid installation and performance, the audience will gain behind the scenes access to the the scientific quest, the collaboration, and the personal journeys behind the discovery of the accelerating universe.
Finally, I will touch on the extensive outreach efforts of physicists at Notre Dame and reveal how we use gummy worms to introduce children to spectra.