This is the second part in what I had originally seen as a two part series on what may be the neatest tools in astronomy’s tool belt for indirectly examining the stuff of the universe. I say originally thought, because as I sit here writing, I’m thinking this is going to evolve into three parts. In this entry I want to address where is CMB came from and how it tells us where we’re going. (image credit: NASA / WMAP Science Team)
Pick up pretty much any astronomy text, look up Cosmic Microwave Background, and you’ll find something along the lines of: “The Cosmic Microwave Background is a relic of the moment the universe cooled enough for recombination to take place. Prior to that moment the universe was opaque to radiation. Today we see this left over radiation as a 2.725 K degree microwave background radiation.” The book will then go onto explain how the CMB was detected.
Did any of that make sense to you? I know it didn’t make sense to me the first dozen or so times I read it over the years. Let me see if I can make sense of this scientific obstruction for you.
[Background: The week of March 11, 2018 I attended the “Computing Morality: Artificial Intelligence and ‘Big Data’ in Science and Faith” conference at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. This was a conference with talks ranging from how we train self-driving cars to handle people dashing in front of the car, to how we understand understanding. I was asked to give a talk introducing the theme of moral issues that... Read More
Tonight I co-gave the opening address at the Templeton Foundation supported Q3 conference on Cosmology and Theology. It was perhaps the most nerve wracking talk I’ve ever given. While I am a Christian, I must admit to being terrified of conservative Christians. I’ve just realized I can’t count the number of churches who have made me feel rejected because I spend my days studying our universe. At the same time,... Read More
Slide Show + Audio (.mp4) Transcript: This is a talk I originally prepared to present as part of the 2206-2007 convocation series at Illinois College. Since then I have given it before several other audiences, and with every presentation Iâ€šÃ„Ã´ve had more people ask, will this be online. Finally, I can saw yes. Hereâ€šÃ„Ã´s the link. Please enjoy. In todayâ€šÃ„Ã´s crazy world, it is easy to get lost in the details of our overly busy... Read More
In what is to me the most scientifically important paper of the year, astronomers today announced the discovery of 2 galaxies at redshifts > 10 and 4 galaxies with redshifts >7.7. The most distant of these galaxies was forming stars just 500,000 years after the Big Bang and ~120,000 years after the formation of the cosmic microwave background, and contributed to the re-ionizing the universe after the formation of neutral hydrogen. These galaxies were discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope and Keck II, and by taking advantage of gravitational lensing effects in three galaxy clusters. (Figure shows a selection of Hubble Space Telescope images of the cluster fields with the newly-located sources marked. credit: Stark et. al / STScI / ESA)
That was a lot of exciting information, and now that I’ve gotten some of the excitement out of my system, let me step back and tell you exactly what it means.