The Kavli Prize Symposium in Astrophysics

Kavli Prize Laureate Ewine van Dishoeck will give her Kavli Prize Laureate Lecture Thursday, September 6 at The University of Oslo. The other speakers are Debra Fischer, Martin Asplund, Christopher J. Pethick, Sera Markoff and Sabine Hossenfelder. The symposium is open to everyone.

September 6, 2018 - 10:00am
The Kavli Prize Symposium in Astrophysics

See abstracts below


Øystein Elgarøy, Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics, will be the moderator for the event.

10.00: Greetings and welcome by the organizers + opening address

10.20: Kavli Laureate Popular lecture:
Ewine van Dishoeck:
Molecules from clouds to disks and planets

11.05: Debra Fischer: Searching for Analogs of Earth
11.45: Lunch
12.50: Martin Asplund: The first stars
13.30: Christopher J. Pethick: Neutron stars: where nuclear physics, condensed matter physics and astrophysics meet
14.10: Coffee break
14.50: Sera Markoff: Imaging (and imagining) Black Holes in Action
15.30: Sabine Hossenfelder: How Beauty leads Physics Astray

Tapas will be served after the symposium.


10.20 Ewine van Dishoeck, Leiden University, Netherlands:

Molecules from clouds to disks and planets

The discovery of thousands of planets around stars other than our Sun has revived age-old questions on how these exo-planets form and which chemical ingredients are available to build them.  Star formation and chemistry start in the cold and tenuous clouds between the stars. In spite of the extremely low temperatures and densities, these clouds contain a surprisingly rich and interesting chemistry, as evidenced by the detection of nearly 200 different molecules.  New facilities such as ALMA and soon JWST allow us to zoom in on dense cloud cores and planetary system construction sites with unprecedented sharpness and sensitivity.  Spectral scans of young disks contain tens of thousands of rotational lines, revealing water and a surprisingly rich variety of organic materials, including simple sugars and high abundances of deuterated species.  How are these prebiotic molecules formed and can they end up on new planets?  How do they compare with recent results from the Rosetta mission to comet 67 P/C-G in our own Solar System? The era of quantitative studies of planetary systems in formation is now in full swing.

11.05 Debra Fischer, Yale University:

Searching for Analogs of Earth

The ancient Greeks debated whether the Earth was unique, or innumerable worlds existed around other Suns. Twenty-five years ago, technology and human ingenuity enabled the discovery of the first extrasolar planet candidates. The architectures of these first systems, with gas giant planets in star-skirting orbits, were unexpected and again raised an echo of that ancient question: is the Earth typical or unique? We are interested in this seemingly anthropocentric question because with all of our searching and discoveries, Earth is the only place where life has been found and it is the question of whether life exists elsewhere that energizes the search for exoplanets. The trajectory of this field has been stunning. After a steady stream of detections with the radial velocity method, a burst of discovery was made possible with the NASA Kepler mission. While thousands of smaller planets have now been found, true Earth analogs have eluded firm detection. However, we are sharpening the knives of our technology and without a doubt we now stand at the threshold of detecting hundreds of Earth analogs. Using the next generation of space missions and new ground-based spectrographs, we will detect the worlds that orbit nearby stars and we will be ready to probe their atmospheres for signatures of life. We will finally resolve the ancient question of whether life is unique or common.

12.50 Martin Asplund, Australian National University:

The first stars

The first stars transformed the Universe when they formed 100-200 million years after the Big Bang. They are likely responsible for ushering in the epoch of reionisation with their radiation and of course they produced the very first elements heavier than lithium in the cosmos. Still their nature is poorly understood. Were they all very massive (>~100Msun) or did also low-mass Population III stars form that may have survived to the present-day? If they exist today, where might they be lurking in and around galaxies like our Milky Way? I will describe the search for the elusive and exceptionally rare extremely metal-poor stars in our Galactic neighbourhood and what they may teach us about star formation, initial mass function, and stellar evolution and nucleosynthesis in the early Universe. In particular I will discuss how lithium in these stars probe Big Bang nucleosynthesis (and maybe even non-standard particle physics), how the production of gold relates to gravitational waves, and how the most metal-poor stars in the Galactic bulge may be the oldest known objects in the Universe dating back to redshifts of z>15.

13.30 Christopher J. Pethick, Niels Bohr International Academy, Denmark:

Neutron stars: where nuclear physics, condensed matter physics and astrophysics meet

It is now 50 years since neutron stars were discovered observationally.  They provide an opportunity to investigate matter under conditions more extreme than can be encountered in the laboratory, and they are currently the subject of intense study observationally.  I shall give an introduction to the physics of matter in neutron stars, and shall describe the interplay between various subfields of physics in problems of contemporary research, among them superfluidity of nucleons, and the very aspherical nuclei (nuclear pasta) that are expected to occur in the outer parts of neutron stars.

14.50 Sera Markoff, University of Amsterdam:

Imaging (and imagining) Black Holes

Black holes are one of the most exotic consequences of Einstein's general relativity, objects so compact that they warp spacetime around them, preventing light (and everything else) from escaping their pull.   Yet they are also very common players in the Universe, on scales ranging from the stellar up to beasts over a billion times more massive than our sun.   Contrary to their reputation as cosmic vacuum cleaners, they actually serve as engines for extremely energetic processes, playing a major role in regulating the growth of galaxies.  Some black holes also launch enormous jets of relativistic plasma that accelerate particles to energies millions of times higher than the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.   Astronomers, astrophysicists and physicists all have reasons for wanting to understand black holes, yet we have been limited by the resolution of our telescopes from actually seeing one directly.   This situation has changed dramatically with the coming of the Event Horizon Telescope, an Earth-sized array operating in the millimeter wavelength regime, that can actually make pictures (think Interstellar) of a couple of nearby supermassive black holes such as the one in our Galactic center, Sgr A*, and the active galactic nucleus M87.  I will briefly introduce black holes and show some examples of the havoc they inflict on their environments.  Then I will discuss some of the key problems we are still facing in terms of building a complete model for the (astro)physics around them, and give some examples of the current cutting edge in modeling and interpretation.  Finally I will explain what the Event Horizon Telescope is, and how we anticipate the groundbreaking data from the first full run in April 2017 (note: I will not be able to show the results yet!) will revolutionise our field.

15.30 Sabine Hossenfelder, Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies:

How Beauty leads Physics Astray

To develop fundamentally new laws of nature, theoretical physicists often rely on arguments from beauty. Simplicity and naturalness in particular have been strongly influential guides in the foundations of physics ever since the development of the standard model of particle physics. In this talk I argue that arguments from beauty have led the field into a dead end and discuss what can be done about it.