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Katherine Freese - The cosmic cocktail: Three parts dark matter

 Katherine Freese

Talk details

Talk abstract

The ordinary atoms that make up the known universe, from our bodies and the air we breathe to the planets and stars, constitute only 5 percent of all matter and energy in the cosmos. The remaining 95 percent is made up of a recipe of 25-percent dark matter and 70-percent dark energy, both nonluminous components whose nature remains a mystery. Katherine Freese will recount the stories of the dark matter puzzle, starting with the discoveries of visionary scientists from the 1930s who first proposed its existence, to Vera Rubin in the 1970s whose observations conclusively showed its dominance in galaxies, to the deluge of data today from underground laboratories, satellites in space, and the Large Hadron Collider. Theorists contend that dark matter most likely consists of new fundamental particles; the best candidates include weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) and axions. Billions of them pass through our bodies every second without us even realizing it, yet their gravitational pull is capable of whirling stars and gas at breakneck speeds around the centers of galaxies, and bending light from distant bright objects. This talk will overview this cosmic cocktail, including the evidence for the existence of dark matter in galaxies. Many cosmologists believe we are on the verge of solving this mystery and this talk will provide the foundation needed to fully fathom this epochal moment in humankind's quest to understand the universe.


Katherine Freese

Katherine Freese is the Jeff and Gail Kodosky Endowed Chair and Professor of Physics at the University of Texas, Austin. Her research spans a wide range in cosmology and astroparticle physics. She has been working to identify the dark matter and dark energy that permeate the universe, as well as to build a successful model for the early universe immediately after the Big Bang. The author of the popular book The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter, she has been very active in public outreach, including television, radio, public lectures, podcasts and public panels. Her many TV appearances include Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, and the Discovery Channel's How the Universe Works. She has given public lectures at TED-X Vienna, the Hayden Planetarium in New York (hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson), and the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, among other places. 

She received her bachelor of arts in physics from Princeton University, her master of arts in physics from Columbia University, and her PhD in physics in 1984 from the University of Chicago. Following several postdoctoral positions, she served on the faculty of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan, and was director of the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics in Stockholm (NORDITA) from 2014-2016, and is now a guest professor at Stockholm University. Her honors include an honorary doctorate from the University of Stockholm in 2012, the American Physical Society Lilienfeld Prize in 2019, and election to the National Academy of Sciences in 2020.