The Big Questions Of Our Universe – With Guest Dr. Katherine Freese (Part 3)
John P. Millis, PhD for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
As we look back over the last century, we observe an immense amount of progress in our understanding of the Cosmos. It is larger, more complicated and more dynamic than we would have dared to dream a mere hundred years ago. With modern computing capabilities, instruments with greater and greater sensitivities, researchers are able to study the Universe in unprecedented detail. What we have discovered has often brought more questions than answers.
In today’s podcast I explore some of these new questions with my guest Dr. Katherine Freese. How have the revelations of the last century led to new questions and problems in cosmology and astrophysics? What progress is being made to get a handle on them? Is it possible for us to solve these problems at all?
There is fascinating research taking place right now and new experiments being planned that could radically impact our understanding of the Universe. Of course, as has been the recent trend, the most exciting aspect of this work is the discoveries that we haven’t anticipated. What new questions are we going to be asking one hundred years from now?
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 (ESA) Planck Satellite show that the framework of natural inflation matches the data.