Nobel Conference 49: The Universe at Its Limits

Posted on February 19th, 2013 by

What is the universe made of? Where did it come from? Where is it going? Nobel Conference 49, “The Universe at Its Limits,” to be held on October 1 and 2, 2013, will explore some of the most fundamental questions of science in light of recent discoveries:

Western science has roots in ancient Greece, where two seemingly opposite lines of inquiry began over 2,000 years ago. The first was astronomy, the study of what is “outside,” beyond the boundaries of Earth. Over the centuries this discipline has looked outward to our solar system, our home galaxy, and beyond, to examine the large-scale structure of the universe. The second was the study of “inside” matter, which began with the concept of the atom but has reached the realm of subatomic particles and the fundamental forces in nature.

In the 20th century, astronomy gave us Big Bang cosmology, a theory of the origin and evolution of an expanding universe. At the same time, subatomic physics offered the Standard Model of the constituents of energy and matter that make up that universe. From the quest for grand unification to the search for the Higgs boson, the science of the early 21st century pushes to find the limits of the Standard Model and, perhaps, to go beyond.

Along the way, several crucial discoveries have shown us that these two seemingly opposite limits of the very large and the very small are intimately connected with each other. The finite speed of light tells us that, the farther we look out into space, the farther back we look in time. The expanding universe implies that, at an earlier time, it was once much hotter and denser than it is today. The Standard Model, in its attempts to unify the forces of nature, shows that such unification can only occur under the kind of hot, dense conditions that existed right after the Big Bang. So today we seek answers to the questions of the origin, constituents, and evolution of the universe—from measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation supporting theories of early cosmic inflation, to the gravitational measurements pointing to the existence of dark matter, to the white dwarf supernovae data indicating a dark energy accelerating the expansion of our universe—both in telescopes, which look outward to examine the vastness of the cosmos, and in particle accelerators, which look inward and seek to create its most fundamental building blocks.

Leading researchers in astrophysics and particle physics will come together on October 1 & 2, 2013, to discuss the confluence between their seemingly disparate fields of study, particle physics and astrophysics. The panel of the “The Universe at Its Limits” includes two Nobel Laureates, the former director of the Vatican Observatory, a scientist on the Large Hadron Collider project at CERN, a supernova researcher, and theoretical physicists and cosmologists. We hope that you will make plans to join the conversation. Tickets for the 2013 Nobel Conference will go on sale soon. For ticket and event information, visit the Nobel Conference website.

Steve Mellema
Chair, Nobel Conference 49

Chuck Niederriter
Director of the Nobel Conference


One Comment

  1. Joe Lencioni says:

    I had my fingers crossed for Neil deGrasse Tyson.