RAS Ordinary Meeting - October 2022

October 2022 OM
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RAS
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Cosmic Ignorance - Professor Pedro G. Ferreira

Observations of the large scale structure of the Universe have allowed us to validate a powerful mathematical model of the Universe. We can now measure with remarkable precision, a number of properties such as its geometry, its matter content and the morphology of the initial conditions.

This model is firmly rooted in physics that we know yet also reliant on speculative assumptions: inflation, dark matter and dark energy. As our understanding of the cosmological model has developed, and with ever improving data, we have been confronted with anomalies and inconsistencies. There is hope that, with new observations, more powerful simulations and the new developments in machine learning and data science, we will be able to fully resolve any inconsistencies. But there is a real risk that, if we don't start to think differently, we will never completely understand our mathematical model. Ultimately we may never know how our Universe really works.

Professor Pedro G. Ferreira is Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford and Director of the Beecroft Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology. He studied and worked at Imperial College in London, at the University of California at Berkeley and at CERN in Geneva. He has been the recipient of a Royal Society University Research Fellowship, a Leverhulme fellowship and an ERC Advanced Grant.

His area of expertise is cosmology where he has pioneered research in the relic radiation left over from the Big Bang, the nature of the dark Universe (such as dark matter and dark energy) and has led the way in studying alternatives to Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. More recently he has worked on gravitational waves and the use of black holes as probes of fundamental physics.

Pedro G. Ferreira has written extensively outside academia. His most recent book, “The Perfect Theory: A Century of Geniuses and the Battle over General Relativity” has been published in over 20 countries and was shortlisted for the 2014 Royal Society Winton Science Book Prize.

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