January 14, 2011
How old is the universe? How old are the stars? What is the universe made of? What was the history of the universe? These questions, and more, have been answered by a modest-size space mission called WMAP (Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe). In this lecture, Professor Bennett will offer an overview of what we know about our universe, how we know it, and what questions remain unanswered.
Dr. Charles L. Bennett has been a Johns Hopkins Professor of Physics and Astronomy since 2005. He was previously a Senior Scientist for Experimental Cosmology and a Goddard Senior Fellow at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. His major field of research is experimental cosmology. In particular, he leads the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) mission. WMAP quantified the age, content, history, and other key properties of the universe with unprecedented accuracy and precision. In 2009, the WMAP papers were the most cited scientific papers in the world. Previous to his work on WMAP, Dr. Bennett was the Deputy Principal Investigator of the Differential Microwave Radiometers (DMR) instrument and a member of the Science Team of the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) mission. The scientific results from this work included a measurement of the spectrum and the first detection of variations across the sky of the temperature of the cosmic microwave background radiation. Dr. Bennett received the 2010 Shaw Prize in Astronomy, the 2009 Comstock Prize in Physics, the 2006 Harvey Prize, and the 2005 Henry Draper Medal. He received the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for his work on COBE and again for his work on WMAP. He also received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal for WMAP. Dr. Bennett received his Ph.D. in Physics from MIT in 1984 and his B.S. degree in Physics and Astronomy, cum laude with High Honors in Astronomy, from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1978. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Physical Society.