Our Place in the Universe: The Story of Modern Cosmology [Science series]

6 October 2017

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Venue: Conway Hall (Brockway Room), Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL

Organiser: David Marsh

David J. E. Marsh (Doddy) is originally from Liverpool, where he was radicalised by the punk scene and skateboarding. Doddy got his PhD in Theoretical Physics from Oxford and is now a holds a Royal Astronomical Society Postdoctoral Fellowship at King’s College London. Doddy works on observational cosmology, theories of dark matter, and their relation to string theory. He is 30 years old.

Cosmology as a science began exactly 100 years ago with Einstein’s first paper applying General Relativity to the entire Universe. This is an audacious attempt to apply a radical idea to something of monumental philosophical importance. Cosmologists seek to use observation, combined with mathematics, to understand fundamental questions related to the origin, composition, growth, and fate of the entire Universe. In the last 20 years cosmology has gone from speculation to precision science, and humanity has learned amazing things about the size and composition of the Universe that were previously the realm of science fiction. This is thanks largely to observations of the “cosmic microwave background radiation”. I will describe advances in modern cosmology relating to theories of the size and origin of the Universe and Dark Matter, and how these theories are grounded in observational facts. The progress of cosmology has been collaborative, and also full of interaction and debate among competing ideas. I will try and describe the human story behind these advances as an example of the scientific method, and what they might mean for us all. I will attempt to debunk the idea that theoretical physicists hold dearly to “paradigms”, and that on the contrary the field is open to all ideas expressed with sufficient clarity, rigour, and evidence.