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The University of Southampton
Lifelong Learning

'Big Bang' Study Day Event

10:00 - 16:00
16 May 2015
Avenue Campus Highfield Road Southampton SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this event, please email Lifelong Learning Team at .

Event details

‘Signals Imply a “Big-Bang” Universe’: this was the front-page headline of the New York Times on 21 May 1965. It announced that scientists had detected a faint background radiation everywhere in the sky, significant evidence that everything in the universe had a common origin in a hot ‘big-bang’ billions of years before. Over the course of the next few years, the field of scientific cosmology constructed itself around the assumption that the ‘big-bang’ theory, though still subject to elaboration and refinement, was essentially correct

Marking the 50th anniversary of the announcement in the New York Times, the Big Bang Study Day at the University of Southampton brings together historians and physicists to discuss the long history of concepts of cosmic creation in Judaic and Christian thought, the evolution of scientific cosmology from the Copernican revolution to the confirmation of the ‘big bang’ theory, and the principal developments in the 'big bang' theory since the mid-sixties, from the theory of a rapid inflation in the very early universe to the discovery that - driven by 'dark energy' - the universe's expansion is actually accelerating, not slowing down. 


Dr Helen Spurling: In the Beginning: Ancient Interpretations of Creation
The Bible contains two creation stories. One starts ‘in the beginning’ and describes creation in seven days (Genesis 1). A second account focuses on the famous story of Adam and Eve and creation centred on the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2-3). However, the biblical accounts were not simply taken at face value even in the ancient world, and we have evidence of extensive discussions over the method of creation, who was involved and the tools or matter with which the world was created. Early Jews and Christians shared the biblical text, and their interpretations of creation are rich and diverse. This talk will offer a snapshot of some of the different ways the biblical creation was understood by Jews and Christians in the ancient world, and what this tells us about their theories of how life, the universe and everything began.

Professor Kendrick Oliver: Order, Scale and Origins: Concepts of the Universe from Copernicus to the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation
This lecture surveys the development of cosmology as a field of scientific study from the sixteenth century, with Nicolaus Copernicus's removal of the earth from the centre of the solar system, through Isaac Newton's establishment of the law of universal gravitation, Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, Edwin Hubble's measurements of an expanding cosmos, Georges Lemaitre's and George Gamow's concepts of an abrupt beginning to the universe, to the mid-1960s' confirmation of the 'big bang' theory in the form of the identification of the cosmic microwave background radiation. The lecture proposes that many of the key shifts in cosmological understanding in the twentieth century were tied to broader patterns of social change and technological modernization, particularly in the United States. 

Professor David Wands (Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, University of Portsmouth): Inflating the Universe
Inflation is a period of accelerated expansion in the very early universe. It has become widely accepted by cosmologists in recent years as an explanation for many of the large-scale features of our Universe that otherwise are peculiar initial conditions required by the classical hot big bang model: why is our universe so big, so flat, so smooth? This talk will explore how inflation also offers an understanding of the origin of the large-scale structure seen in our Universe today from quantum fluctuations at early times. New observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background made last year by the European Space Agency Planck satellite and the BICEP experiment at the south pole provoked intense debate in the scientific community as to whether they provide the first evidence of primordial gravitational waves, often cited as a "smoking gun" for inflation in the very early universe.

Dr Mark Sullivan: Cosmic explosions, dark energy, and the fate of the universe
In 1998, our view of the universe was turned upside down by the discovery of dark energy: a mysterious form of energy that pervades the universe and causes its expansion rate to increase. The nature of this dark energy is unknown, and attempting to understand it is one of the biggest challenges to modern physics. This talk will outline how astronomers discovered dark energy using observations of distant exploding stars, how we are planning to study it in the future - and what its existence may mean for the ultimate fate of the universe.


£40 full rate (please email us for details of our new Loyalty Scheme)

£25 loyalty rate (Harbour Lights Members, Friends of Parkes, English Teachers Network, U3A members, university staff and alumni)

£12.50 discount rate (students/sixth form & college students and those in receipt of income-based Job Seeker's Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Council Tax or Housing Benefit)

All prices include lunch and refreshments


BOOKING IS NOW CLOSED. Please note that prior booking is required to attend this event.

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