Cosmic History: Everything from Nothing

St Peter's School

Cosmic History: Everything from Nothing

Professor Carlos Frenk, 2012

"Cosmic history: everything from nothing"

by Professor Carlos Frenk FRS, Institute for Computational Cosmology, Durham University

Cosmology confronts some of the most fundamental questions in the whole of science. How and when did our universe begin? What is it made of? How did it acquire its current appearance?  There has been enormous progress in the past few years towards answering these questions. For example, recent observations have established that our universe contains an unexpected mix of components that include not only ordinary atoms, but also exotic dark matter and a new form of energy called dark energy. Gigantic surveys of galaxies reveal how the universe is structured. Large supercomputer simulations recreate the evolution of the universe and provide the means to relate processes occuring near the beginning of the Universe with the structures seen today. A coherent picture of cosmic evolution, going back to about a micro-second after the Big Bang, is beginning to emerge.

However, fundamental issues, like the nature of the dark energy, remain unresolved. These will require an understanding of what went on at even earlier times.

Carlos Frenk was born in Mexico City in 1951. He obtained his first degree in Physics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and went on to Cambridge where he first read Part III of the Mathematical Tripos (1977) and then gained a PhD in astrophysics (1981). He worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, in Berkeley (1981-1983) and in Santa Barbara (1983-1944), and at Sussex University (1984-1985) and was then appointed Lecturer at the University of Durham (1986).

In 2001 he was appointed to the Ogden Chair of Fundamental Physics at Durham. He is the founding Director of Durham’s Institute for Computational Cosmology and is one of the originators of the ``Cold dark matter’’ theory for the formation of galaxies and other cosmic structures, currently the accepted paradigm in cosmology. He specializes in large supercomputer simulations that attempt to recreate the entire formation history of our universe.

Frenk has published over 400 scientific papers and is one of the most cited authors in the world in the scientific literature on Space Sciences and Astronomy. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 2004 and has received numerous prizes and awards for his scientific research, including a Royal Society Wolfson award, the Hoyle medal, the George Darwin Prize and most recently the 2011 Gruber Cosmology prize and medal. He has given numerous public lectures and has featured in many radio and TV programmes.