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Schmidt to speak on cosmic acceleration -- one decade later

Thursday, Feb. 28, 2008, 4:45 p.m. A02 McDonnell Hall
Brian Schmidt, a leader of one of the teams that discovered the accelerating universe 10 years ago, will speak at 4:45 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, in A02 McDonnell Hall.

An astronomer at the Mount Stromlo Observatory of the Australian National University, Schmidt will discuss "Measuring Cosmic Acceleration."

In 1998, two teams of scientists uncovered direct evidence that the expansion of the universe was speeding up. Experts had been saying for years that virtually all of the universe's detritus -- everything from stars and planets on down to chunks of rock and dust and all the so-called dark matter that makes up most of the mass of galaxies -- was putting a drag on things as a result of the gravitational attraction that draws them together. The expansion of the universe was supposed to be decelerating.

Beyond shocking many scientists, the discovery has presented a challenge to understanding the fundamental laws of physics. The prevalent idea is that the universe today consists mostly of an invisible, gravitationally repulsive form of energy known as "dark energy." Among other questions, scientists are interested in whether its properties can be measured even though it does not absorb or emit light.

Schmidt, who earned the Shaw Prize and the Peter Gruber Prize in Cosmology for his role in the discovery, will provide an update on the scientific quest that has ensued over the past decade and predict what the next decade is likely to yield in terms of understanding dark energy and its impact on the future of the universe.

"Many of us think that explaining the acceleration is the greatest puzzle in science today," said Paul Steinhardt, the Albert Einstein Professor in Science at Princeton, who is hosting the lecture.

The event, designated as the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Lecture in Astrophysics, is being organized by the Department of Physics.

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