WMAP Scientist, Winner of the 2012 Gruber Prize in Cosmology
Taking the Measure of the Universe - Oct 25, 2012
The idea that the laws of physics might be able to explain the structure of the entire universe began with Einstein's theory of gravity in 1917, which led to the hot Big Bang Theory. In recent years, techniques for observing the remnant heat from the Big Bang (the cosmic microwave background radiation) have allowed us to take a detailed look at conditions prevailing in the early universe. By looking at how this radiation varies across the sky, the COBE and WMAP space missions reveal a picture in which the cosmos may have begun as a quantum tunneling event called Inflation, in which the entire universe appeared like a giant bubble. In addition, the data allow us to measure the age of the universe, the epoch when the first stars formed, and the overall composition of atomic matter, dark matter, and dark energy. I will describe these measurements and try to explain how we reach these conclusions.
Gary Hinshaw recently joined the UBC Physics & Astronomy Department as a Canada Research Chair, after spending 20 years at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland. While at Goddard, Dr. Hinshaw worked on two seminal satellite projects COBE and WMAP, NASA's first two missions devoted to cosmology. Dr. Hinshaw led the data analysis effort for the WMAP mission and he is one of the most highly-cited researchers in the field of Astronomy and Physics. While at Goddard, he received the John C Lindsay Memorial Award, Goddard's highest scientific award, and this year the WMAP team received the Gruber Prize in Cosmology.