Cosmologist Michael Turner of the University of Chicago offered a Colloquium
talk on "The Big Questions in Cosmology" to kick off a three-day conference
last week celebrating the opening of Fermilab's new Particle Astrophysics
Center. The conference, "Fundamental Physics from Galaxy Clusters,"
highlighted the importance of upcoming experiments in areas ranging from
precision measurements to "wild speculation" on dark energy.
"There are two purposes of the workshop," said Fermilab Theoretical
Astrophysicist Jochen Weller, a presenter and member of the organizing
committee. "We want to inaugurate the Particle Astrophysics Center and show
the world that we are here. Also, we want to bring together experts in this
field and create a forum for discussion."
Turner, Assistant Director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the
National Science Foundation, delivered a comprehensive summary of the many
unknowns in astrophysics, including the challenges involved with getting
accurate measurements of cosmological parameters through upcoming
experiments. On Thursday morning, Fermilab director Mike Witherell and the
new Particle Astrophysics Center director Rocky Kolb addressed the more than
150 conference attendees, many of them students, and emphasized the
importance of collaboration. "The upcoming projects are beyond the scope of
a single university, or even a group of universities," Kolb said.
Astrophysicists from many countries spoke about how studying galaxy clusters
could help tighten the parameters for the equation of state, with data
collected by a variety of surveys from collaborations around the world.
"Fermilab is involved in various proposals which try to probe dark energy by
observing galaxy clusters through a variety of methods," said Weller. "Right
now, our theories of dark energy are wild speculation. We need experimental
data to guide our theoretical models."