An introduction to cosmology (short course)

7.00pm to 8.30pm, Tuesday 17 May

This event has already taken place

  • Barred spiral galaxy
    Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScIAURA)


Standard £225
Members £190

This covers all six sessions.

Event description

Cosmology: what we do and don't know about our peculiar Universe.

Cosmology, the study of the evolution of the Universe, only really existed in the realm of philosophy until the start of the 20th century. However since then, technological advances in telescopes and the development of general relativity, nuclear physics and particle physics have revolutionised our understanding of the history of our Universe. While we have made massive progress using these powerful tools, the Universe seems to have thrown up some very strange mysteries:

- Why does 96% of the stuff in the Universe appear to be dark - completely different to any kind of matter we have ever seen or created at particle accelerators?
- What happened at the beginning of the Universe and why does it look exactly the same in all directions?
- Why has the Universe recently started to accelerate in its expansion?
- What was the big bang and was there anything before it, or are there other Universes? Are we part of a multiverse?
- Why is there more matter than antimatter in the Universe?

We don't know the answer to any of these questions but we have theories to explain all of them! We don't know if the theories are correct and the cosmology community is today testing them out.

In a repeat of his popular short course of six lectures, Dr Malcolm Fairbairn of King’s College London will try to explain how cosmologists try to answer these questions. The course will introduce topics such as general relativity and explain why and how, without Einstein intending it to, it predicted the expansion of the Universe. He will explain how studying tiny ripples in the cosmic microwave radiation can help us to measure the shape of the Universe as well as telling us about its contents. The course will explain how observations of supernovae explosions have told us that the Universe is accelerating. Malcolm will explain what dark energy is, what dark matter is, why (although they are both dark) they are fundamentally different to each other and how researchers are trying to learn more about them, both in space and on earth in laboratories.

The level of the course will be aimed at committed non-experts and no particular level of mathematics will be assumed.

The course will run for six, 90 minute sessions as follows:

Session 1: Tuesday 17 May
Session 2: Wednesday 25 May
Session 3: Tuesday 31 May
Session 4: Tuesday 7 June
Session 5: Tuesday 14 June
Session 6: Tuesday 21 June

The course costs £225 (£190 Members) for six sessions, including all course materials and refreshments. The course is for interest only, with no qualification, examination, or certificate of attendence at its conclusion.

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