Eastbourne, East Sussex BN20 9HT
Title: Dark Energy
Lecturer: Nick Evans – Professor of Theoretical High-Energy Physics, School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Southampton – See: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/~evans/
Precis: The biggest problem in physics right now is Dark Energy. Astronomers need this peculiar energy content of the Universe to explain the observed expansion of the Universe, but no one knows what this material out in empty space is. Equally, particle physicists try to understand what the Universe is made of and recent experiments at the Large Hadron Collider have discovered the Higgs boson. This particle is responsible for the masses of the other fundamental particles and is a form of Dark Energy. The problem is that particle physicists gets the answer for the observed value completely wrong when they try to compute it. We fundamentally struggle to link the quantum world of short-distance physics to any computation of gravity because we know very little about gravity at sub-atomic scales. I’ll try to give a gentle introduction to all of this physics in bite-size chunks. I’ll finish off by talking about the wild speculation on what might live in the hole in our understanding from brane worlds to multiverses.
Biography: Nick was a member of Orpington Astronomy Society in the mid-1980s before moving to Durham to do his undergraduate degree in Physics. He performed his early research work at Yale and Boston universities in the USA before returning to Southampton in 1999 on a UK government 5-year fellowship. His work centred on strongly interacting particle systems, including composite Higgs models, and he played a large role in applying string theory to the study the strong nuclear force and the mechanism of mass generation. Much of his work centres on the structure of the vacuum, so in a sense he works on nothing! He is now a Professor at Southampton University and the Director of the Faculty of Physical Science Graduate School. Nick’s outreach work includes the online physics with murder mystery thriller The Newtonian Legacy, which you can read for free online at http://www.southampton.ac.uk/~evans/NL/ .