Understanding the Universe
November 20, 2013

Understanding The Universe

How did our Universe begin? A century ago the answer to that question would have looked much different than our modern understanding. And, predictably, our knowledge of the Cosmos will almost certainly change over the next hundred years.

The reason for this is that there are a number of outstanding questions surrounding the formation, evolution, and fate of the Universe. But as we begin to characterize the nature of dark matter and dark energy, our theoretical models will zero in more on the true mathematical representation of the Cosmos.

In order to get a handle on how we’ve arrived at our current understanding of the Universe, I spoke with Dr. Katherine Freese, a theoretical physicist from the University of Michigan and an expert on Cosmology (see biography below). In the first of three podcasts on this topic, Dr. Freese and I discuss the history of Cosmology, as well as some of the challenges that we continue to face.

Stay tuned to Your Universe Today on redOrbit.com for parts two and three of this exciting series.


Dr. Freese is the George E. Uhlenbeck Professor of Physics at the University of Michigan, and the Associate Director of the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics. She works on a wide range of topics in theoretical 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. She has shown that most of the mass in galaxies does not consist of ordinary stellar material, and has proposed ways to look for alternatives such as supersymmetric particles. Currently there is a great deal of excitement about possible detections of these particles. Recently she has proposed Dark Stars as the first stars to form in the Universe.

Professor Freese has also been working on inflation, an early expansion phase which led to our inhabitable universe. Her Natural Inflation model is the theoretically best-motivated variant of inflation; it uses axionic particles to provide the required flat potentials to drive the expansion. In 2013, observations made by the European Space Agency’s Planck Satellite show that the framework of natural inflation matches the data. Freese also studies cosmology of extra dimensions, in which our three-dimensional universe is embedded in higher dimensions.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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