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 - utterly 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 need to find out if the theories are correct, and the cosmology community is testing them today.
In his famous short course, Malcolm Fairbairn 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 cosmic microwave radiation can help us measure the shape of the Universe and tell us about its contents. The course will explain how observations of supernova 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 and how researchers are trying to learn more about them, both in space and on Earth in laboratories.
The course level will be aimed at committed non-experts, and no particular level of mathematics will be assumed.
The course will run for five, 90-minute sessions as follows (each session runs 7.00pm to 8.30pm)
- Monday 15th January 2024
- Monday 22nd January 2024
- Monday 29th January 2024
- Monday 5th February 2024
- Monday 12th February 2024
The course costs £400 (£340 Members) for five sessions, including all course materials and refreshments. The course is for interest only, with no qualification, examination, or certificate of attendance at its conclusion.
About the tutor
Professor Malcom Fairbairn is a lead cosmology researcher at Kings College London. His focus resides at the fascinating intersection of cosmology, particle physics, and astrophysics. He specialises in investigating enigmatic phenomena such as dark matter, dark energy, cosmological inflation, and particle astrophysics. Malcolm’s notable contributions include securing an ERC consolidator grant spanning from 2015 to 2020, dedicated to delving into the realms of dark matter and particle physics within the early Universe.