Cleveland is known for a lot of things, but one thing that is often overlooked is just how much this city loves its science. I was reminded of this last Thursday when I went to find a seat in the almost filled to capacity Murch Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History to hear Risa Wechsler, an assistant professor of physics and astrophysics at Stanford University, give a talk about how computer simulations are playing a role in unlocking how the universe was formed and where it’s headed. The lecture is part of one of the coolest things the CMNH offers: the Frontiers of Astronomy lecture series, which is always free and open to the public. For a $6 parking fee (which could have easily been avoided if I had chosen not to be so lazy) I was able to learn about (in no particular order):
- How computer simulations are helping us to test theoretical models of how the universe was formed and where it could be headed
- Only 5% of the universe is made up of matter (WTF, right? 95% of the galaxy is made up of stuff we don’t know anything about)
- Galaxies are “clumpy” and that “clumpiness” depends on dark matter and dark energy in order to form (so, basically that 95% of the universe we don’t understand is doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to galaxy formation)
- WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles) which is further proof that physicists are hilarious
- The Dark Energy Survey (2013-2018) which is an attempt to better understand why the expansion of the universe is accelerating, not slowing down despite the amount of mass it contains
- the LSST project which will attempt to map out approximately 10 billion galaxies by imaging half of the sky every 3 nights from 2018-2028
- Oh, and about 10% of me is approx. 13.8 billion years old. Apparently, the hydrogen that helps make humans was made during the first three minutes of the universe. So, if anyone accuses you of being old, throw that juicy fact right back in his or her face.