From the Farm to the Nobel Prize: Deciphering the Big Bang

Thursday, October 11, 2007
4 p.m., ACES 2.302 - Avaya Auditorium


Lecture Video - QuickTime - 1hr. 6min. [145MB]
Introduction by Dr. Neal Evans
Chair, Department of Astronomy
Edward Randall, Jr. Centennial Professor

get quicktime

Dr. John C. Mather

Head of the Office of Chief Scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Senior Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope
Goddard Fellow at NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center in Greebelt, MD.


The history of the universe in a nutshell, from the Big Bang to now, and on to the future - John Mather will tell the story of how we got here, how the Universe began with a Big Bang, how it could have produced an Earth where sentient beings can live, and how those beings are discovering their history. Dr. Mather grew up on the Dairy Research Station in Sussex County, New Jersey where he developed his strong interest in science. At NASA, he was Project Scientist for the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite, which measured the spectrum (the color) of the heat radiation from the Big Bang, discovered hot and cold spots in that radiation, and hunted for the first objects that formed after the great explosion. He will explain Einstein's biggest mistake, show how Edwin Hubble discovered the expansion of the universe, how the COBE mission was built, and how the COBE data support the Big Bang theory. He will also show NASA's plans for the next great telescope in space, the James Webb Space Telescope. It will look even farther back in time than the Hubble Space Telescope, and will look inside the dusty cocoons where stars and planets are being born today. Planned for launch in 2013, it may lead to another Nobel Prize for some lucky observer.

John Mather received his B.A. in Physics with highest honors from Swarthmore College in 1968, and completed his Ph.D. in Physics at the University of Califormia, Berkeley in 1974 with perfect grades. His list of awards since these auspicious beginnings encompasses 38 different awards and fellowships, culminating, most recently, with the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006 (sharing the prize with Dr. George F. Smoot, of the University of California, Berkeley), "for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation." His research centers on infrared astronomy and cosmology. He has worked on far-reaching projects all over the world, and has advised or worked with project groups at NASA, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and CARA (the Center for Astrophysical Research in the Antarctic).

See also:
Antoinette de Vaucouleurs Lecturer: John C. Mather
In Memoriam: Antoinette de Vaucouleurs

This lecture is sponsored by The Endowment for the Antoinette de Vaucouleurs Memorial Lectureship and Medal.

23 October 2007
Astronomy Program · The University of Texas at Austin · Austin, Texas 78712
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