Given by: Dr. Joan Schmelz, Professor
Department of Physics
University of Memphis
October 17, 2007
4:00pm, Manning Hall 201
Modern cosmology tells us that the Universe began billions of years ago with a cosmic
event called the Big Bang. The early Universe was a much different place � a vast
sea of elementary particles with a temperature and density high enough that nuclear
fusion could take place in the entire volume of space. How did this super smooth early
Universe evolve into today's 'clumpy' configuration of planets, stars, and galaxies?
Astronomers think they know the answer. It involves the Cosmic Microwave Background,
a pervasive radio radiation discovered in the 1960s at Bell Labs. In 1989, NASA launched
the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite to study the details of this background
radiation. COBE scientists, Smoot and Mather, found small-scale structure in the radio
radiation and claimed that it was evidence for the 'clumpy' nature of the early Universe.
Their discovery received worldwide headlines and was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize
in Physics. Is it possible that this small-scale structure has nothing to do with
cosmology? Come to the Physics Seminar this week and next week and discover the answer
to this provocative question for yourself!