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Clem Pryke

May 2, 7 p.m.

Studying the Beginning of the Universe from the Bottom of the World

Dr. Clem Pryke, Professor, Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics, School of Physics and Astronomy, College of Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota

Cosmology is the study of the universe, its origin, composition, and ultimate fate. Once the domain of mystics and philosophers, cosmology has more recently become a vibrant science with fresh data coming in thick and fast.

The contemporary universe is expanding, and by using specialized radio telescopes, scientists can now see the afterglow (the cosmic microwave background, or CMB) from when the universe was hot, formless plasma some 14 billion years ago.

Similarly modern, according to experimental cosmologist Dr. Clem Pryke, is the remarkable idea that the universe we see today was once a subatomic speck that underwent a brief burst of hyper expansion or "inflation." As far-fetched as that idea sounds, it turns out to be the simplest and most straightforward explanation for the data that has been collected thus far.

The Inflation Theory also makes an additional (and to-date unconfirmed) prediction: that the hyper expansion will have injected a "background" of gravitational waves into the fabric of spacetime.

Says Pryke, “Our experiments at the South Pole in Antarctica are currently searching for the imprint that these inflationary gravitational waves may have left in the polarization pattern of the CMB.”

Join us May 2 when Dr. Pryke will describe some of the history and evidence for Big Bang cosmology and why we need inflation. He also will highlight the technology and myriad logistics involved in building and operating telescopes at one of the most remote and inhospitable locations on Earth.

Clem Pryke is a Professor of Physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy and the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics in the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota. An experimental cosmologist and educator, he has played a leading role in the construction and operation of a series of CMB telescopes at the South Pole in Antarctica, as well as the analysis of the data produced by these telescopes. In total, he has spent more than a year of his life at the South Pole.

Learn more about Professor Pryke.

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