May 1: The Big Bang Explained – An evening with Argonne’s Clarence Chang, Ph.D.

The mysteries of our universe have been capturing humans’ interest for millennia.  How did our universe come to be?  Was the Big Bang how the universe got its start?  What’s going on beyond our dazzling view of a clear night sky?  Given that the universe is just under 14 billion years old and filled with billions of galaxies not unlike ours, these questions are as challenging to answer as they are common to ask.

Last month, an exciting announcement dominated the news, giving us clues to allow us to begin to better understand the answers to those questions.  Physicists discovered evidence of gravitational waves in our universe’s background radiation, which are the signature of cosmic inflation, a period where the universe underwent an almost unimaginably fast expansion shortly after its beginning in a really short amount of time.  And we mean REALLY short – we’re talking a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second.  Scientists predicted that these gravitational waves would be found if a Big Bang event occurred, and if these measurements hold up to scientific scrutiny, they would provide the first evidence that the universe swelled from microscopic to cosmic size in an instant.  They also shine light on new physics in the earliest instants of our cosmic history.  Heavy stuff, but so far, so good.

As awesome as this announcement was, it was also confusing to many of us who may not spend our days jetting to the South Pole to find out how the universe got its start.  Terms like, “time-space fabric” were thrown around in the popular media, and the jargon didn’t go far in helping the general public understand this incredible result.

Fortunately, Argonne National Lab is right in our backyard, and is home to some of the world’s best scientists working on this background radiation, seeking to understand what happened when the universe was born.  Clarence Chang, Ph.D. is one these researchers.  Dr. Chang is a member of Argonne’s  High Energy Physics Department, where he and his team work to learn about how the universe was born, and what happened after that, using one of the most powerful telescopes in the world, no less.  He’ll be with us to tell the story of last month’s Big Bang announcement in terms non-physicists can understand, and discuss his exciting work at Argonne, including what it’s like to create and hand-carry parts of a telescope to one of the most remote parts of the world, and what his research is telling us about the birth and evolution of our universe.  Don’t miss this opportunity to hang out and talk science with one of Chicago’s leading cosmic physicists for an evening.

The details:

Date: Thursday, May 1, 2014

Time: 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM

Location: Schubas Tavern (3159 N. Southport Ave.)

21+, Free, No Pre-Registration Required, Brown or Red Line to Belmont

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