Philosophical Society of Washington

The Beauty of the Cosmos and the Accelerating Universe

Mario Livio
Space Telescope Science Institute


2146th Meeting Abstract
Friday, April 26, 2002 at 8:15 PM

Abstract:

In 1998, two groups of astronomers presented evidence that the expansion of our universe is accelerating! If confirmed, these findings have enormous implications for cosmology. Perhaps even more importantly, the discovery of accelerated expansion challenges the centuries-old belief that the fundamental theory of the universe must be ‘beautiful’.

Is our universe truly accelerating? How do you define ‘beauty’ in a physical theory? All of these exciting questions will be discussed.

About the Author:

Mario Livio is the Head of the Science Division at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), the institute which conducts the scientific program of the Hubble Space Telescope. He received his Ph.D. in theoretical astrophysics from Tel Aviv University in Israel, was a professor in the Physics Dept. of the Technion-Israel Institute of technology from 1981 till 1991, and joined STScI in 1991. Dr Livio has published over 300 scientific papers and received numerous awards for research and for excellence in teaching. His interests span a broad range of topics in astrophysics, from cosmology to the emergence of intelligent life. Dr Livio has done much fundamental work on the topic of accretion of mass onto black holes, neutron stars, and white dwarfs, as well as on the formation of black holes and the possibility to extract energy from them.

During the past two years, Dr. Livio's research focused on supernova explosions and their use in cosmology to determine the rate of expansion of the universe. In particular, he has shown that in spite of some uncertainties that still exist in theoretical models for supernovae, it is very likely that the recent findings that the expansion of our universe is accelerating are correct.

In addition to his scientific interests, Dr. Livio is a self-proclaimed ‘art fanatic’ who owns many hundreds of art books. Recently, he combined his passions for science and art in a popular book, The Accelerating Universe, which appeared this year. The book discusses ‘beauty’ as an essential ingredient in fundamental theories of the universe.

Dr Livio lectures very frequently to the public. He has given 8 full-day seminars to the public at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., and just during the past year has given other public lectures at the Library of Congress, at the Hayden Planetarium in New York, the Johnson Space Center in Houston, the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, the Institute of Astrophysics in Munich Germany, and many more.

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