Universiteit LeidenZegel Universiteit Leiden

Home > news > oort2008 

Leiden Observatory

Oortlezing 2008

Professor Simon White is a specialist in theoretical studies of the formation of galaxies, and the formation of structure in the Universe. Since 1994, he is director of the Max Planck Institut für Astrophysik in Garching, Germany. He is a leader in simulating the emergence of structure in the universe. This involves studies of the predicted distribution of dark matter, and the properties of galaxies which have formed in the dark matter halos. His simulations have shown that so-called "Cold Dark Matter" can generate matter distributions which agree very well with observations.


Telescopes are time-machines. They allow us to see into the distant past. Our deepest images show the Universe not as it is today, but as it was just 400,000 years after the Big Bang. At that time there were no galaxies, no stars, no planets, no people, no familiar elements other than hydrogen and helium. The cosmos contained nothing but weak sound waves in a near-uniform fog. Supercomputer can compress thirteen billion years of cosmic evolution into a few months of calculation to show how these sound waves developed into the rich structure we see around us today. A study of their harmonic content gives clues to their origin. They appear to be an echo of quantum zero-point fluctuations occurring a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang. Thus our entire world may be a consequence of the nature of this early vacuum. In a very real sense, everything may have come from nothing.


The nineteenth Oort lecture will take place on wednesday april 23, 2008 starting 20:00 hours in room C131 of the Kamerling Onnes Building, Steenschuur 25 in Leiden.

Free tickets are available and can be requested from Mrs. Anita van der Tang until april 19, 2008 by phone: 071-5278466 (monday, tuesday and friday) or by email