Polarization Peregrinations: Using Cosmic Lampposts to Find Keys to Nature’s Laws

  • Speaker
  • Brian Keating, Ph.D.University of California, San Diego
Date & Time


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Simons Foundation Presidential Lectures are free public colloquia centered on four main themes: Biology, Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science, and Neuroscience and Autism Science. These curated, high-level scientific talks feature leading scientists and mathematicians and are intended to foster discourse and drive discovery among the broader NYC-area research community. We invite researchers in the area — as well as interested members of the metropolitan public — to join us for this weekly lecture series.
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Researchers using data from the Planck satellite, a spacecraft measuring the cosmic microwave background (CMB), say they’ve recently observed a hint (at 99.2 percent confidence) of parity violation on cosmic scales. If confirmed, this result would have profound implications, not just for cosmology but for all of fundamental physics. In this lecture, Brian Keating will review the basis for the claimed hint of so-called ‘Chern-Simons’ (yes, that Simons!) cosmic birefringence. He will outline steps scientists are taking to definitively confirm (or falsify) this provocative claim using future CMB experiments like the Simons Array, the Simons Observatory, as well as optical polarization data from unique cosmic ‘lampposts’ (quasars and AGN) using small (0.5-meter class) telescopes.

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About the Speaker

Keating is a cosmologist at the University of California, San Diego. He is an author of more than 200 scientific publications, two U.S. patents, and the best-selling memoir “Losing the Nobel Prize.” Keating received his B.S. from Case Western Reserve University in 1993 and his Ph.D. from Brown University in 2000. Later, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and Caltech, and in 2007 he received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Bush for inventing the BICEP telescope. Keating was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2016 and is the director of the Simons Observatory Project Office. He is a commercial pilot with multi-engine, instrument ratings and is an honorary lifetime member of the National Society of Black Physicists.

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