Research Highlight
February 5, 2006
Public Cosmology Panel Discussion
by Randall H. Landsberg
The New Views of the Universe: Extra Dimensions, Dark Energy and Cosmic Adventures Public Cosmology Panel was broadcast on Chicago Public Radio WBEZ, 91.5. Listen to the audio archive.

One of the core missions of the KICP is to engage the public in the excitement of scientific discovery. The New Views of the Universe Cosmology Panel was designed with this goal in mind. In addition to being a free public event, the program was driven by audience questions. The panel, held on Monday December 12, 2005, drew one thousand people to the Harris Theater in Millennium Park. Queries about the cosmos from the audience fueled a debate among four of world's leading cosmologists and National Public Radio's Ira Flatow. They explored the earliest moments after the Big Bang, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Extra Dimensions, and Multiverses; and some of the experiments that might shed light on these topics.
The New Views of the Universe: Extra Dimensions, Dark Energy and Cosmic Adventures Public Cosmology Panel Monday, December 12, 2005 7-9PM at the Harris Theater in Chicago's Millennium Park

Broadcast on Chicago Public Radio WBEZ, 91.5 Sunday January 22, 2006 7:00PM (CST).

  • What happened in the earliest moments after the Big Bang?
  • What is the nature of the mysterious Dark Energy that is speeding up the expansion of the universe?
  • Are there Extra Dimensions beyond the three we know about?
  • Do Parallel Universes or Multiverses exist?

In conjunction with the New Views of the Universe Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics Inaugural Scientific Symposium in Honor of David Schramm, the KICP and partners organized an event that sought to allow the public to share in the excitement of the many recent cosmological discoveries and advances. After the event, panel members signed copies of their books.

The entire program was unscripted and a response to lines of inquiry proposed by the audience. Questions were solicited in advance via a web form and live and in person at the event. The questions posed were sophisticated and wide ranging, and they were asked by a broad spectrum of people.

For example, the evening began with a query from the web form, ''For the longest time, the major debate was whether the universe would end in a Big Crunch or a Big Chill. What are the eschatological implications of Dark Energy?'' Later an audience member who was memorable because of his demographic (e.g., early elementary school age), had two questions for the panel, ''Is matter energy?'' and a more challenging follow-up, ''[During] that tiny spark that started the Big Bang, how were matter and energy formed?'' Throughout the evening the audience remained engaged and continued to challenge the panel with insightful questions.

Media Coverage:
The New View Panel Discussion, attracted media attention both pre and post event. One unexpected bit of press that bolstered the attendance was that the Chicago Reader, a free, alternative, weekly newspaper, selected the New Views Panel as the ''Daily Special'' for Monday December 12, 2005. Chicago Public Radio, WBEZ, 91.15 FM, recorded the discussion and broadcast a one hour edited version of the evening as part of the Sunday Specials series on January 22, 2006.

Broadcast on Chicago Public Radio:
WBEZ, 91.5
Sunday January 22, 2006
7:00PM (CST)
''Daily Special'' for Monday December 12, 2005 in the Chicago Reader.
Panel Members:
  • Wendy Freedman, Carnegie Observatories
    ''My role is to keep them [the theorists] honest.''
  • Edward (Rocky) Kolb, Fermilab, University of Chicago
    ''A cosmologist and proud of it.''
  • Lawrence Krauss, Case Western Reserve University
    ''Not a 'cosmetologist'.''
  • Lisa Randall, Harvard University
    ''I do a mixture of things. I do string theory and particle physics model building, but also overlapping with cosmology.''

Sponsored by:
Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago
Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Chicago

Wendy Freedman
Freedman is the Crawford H. Greenewalt chair and director of the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California. Her research interests encompass the cosmic distance scale, extragalactic astronomy, stellar populations of galaxies, and cosmology. She led the team that used the Hubble Space Telescope in determining the expansion rate of the universe. This expansion rate had been poorly known for many years until Freedman, along with colleagues, measured it with unprecedented precision in 2001.

Freedman now is leading a project for the next big telescope, called the Giant Magellan Telescope. She also is using supernovae (exploding stars) to learn more about dark energy. Her honors include membership in the National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and awards from the American Philosophical Society and the Cosmos Club.
Edward (Rocky) Kolb
Kolb is director of the Particle Astrophysics Center at Fermilab and a Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. The author of more than 200 scientific papers, he applies elementary particle physics to the study of the very early universe in his research.

Kolb's book for the general public, Blind Watchers of the Sky, received the 1996 Eugene Emme Astronautical Literature Award. He participates in Fermilab's Saturday Morning Physics Program for high school students and has lectured at many venues around the world, including Chicago's Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum and the Royal Society of London. He also has appeared in several television productions, as well as in the OMNIMAX/IMAX film The Cosmic Voyage.
Lawrence Krauss
Krauss is the Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics, and director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University. He is an internationally known cosmologist, who has made important contributions in such areas as dark matter, big bang nucleosynthesis, general relativity, dark energy, and black holes. He is the author of seven popular books, including the international bestseller The Physics of Star Trek. His latest book, published in October 2005, is Hiding in the Mirror: The Mysterious Allure of Extra Dimensions from Plato to String Theory and Beyond.

Described as a public intellectual by Scientific American, Krauss appears frequently on radio and television. His essays on evolution and intelligent design and other topics have appeared in the New York Times. He has received numerous awards for his research, writing and lecturing, including the Public Understanding of Science Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Lisa Randall
Randall is a Professor of Physics at Harvard University, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and one of the most frequently cited theoretical physicists of recent years. Randall is frequently interviewed by journalists and has recently published an op-ed article, about science communication, for the New York Times.

Her research concerns the fundamental nature of particles and forces and how matter's basic elements relate to the physical properties of the world that we see. She has worked on a variety of ideas regarding what might lie beyond established particle physics and cosmological theories. These ideas include theories of extra dimensions of space, the subject of her new book, Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions.
Ira Flatow
Flatow, the moderator, served as NPR's science correspondent from 1971 to 1986. During that time he covered science from such locales as the Kennedy Space Center, Three Mile Island, Antarctica and the South Pole.

Flatow is the author of two books, They All Laughed - From Light Bulbs to Lasers: The Fascinating Stories Behind the Great Inventions That Have Changed our Lives, and Rainbows, Curve Balls and Other Wonders of the Natural World Explained. He also is host of the four-part PBS series Big Ideas, produced by WNET in New York. His honors include the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award and the Carl Sagan Award.

Books Signing:

Rocky Kolb
Blind Watchers of the Sky The People and Ideas that Shaped Our View of The Universe
Addison-Wesley 1996
Paperback: ISBN 0-201-15496-X

Lawrence M. Krauss
Hiding in the Mirror The Mysterious Allure of Extra Dimensions

2005, ISBN 0670033952
Lisa Randall
Warped Passages Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions

ISBN13: 9780060531089; ISBN: 0060531088
Ira Flatow
They All Laughed... From Light Bulbs to Lasers: The Fascinating Stories Behind the Great Inventions

ISBN13: 9780060924157; ISBN: 0060924152
Related Links:
KICP Members: Edward W. Kolb; Randall H. Landsberg