David Helfand – Columbia University
Each class will be presented from 7:00 – 8:30 PM EDT
Part 1 – November 9th
Part 2 – November 16th
If the Sun were the size of an orange in my local New York market, the Earth would be a grain of sand 15 feet away, circling it once per year at the speed 3 inches per day. The nearest star would be a similar orange — in Minneapolis; it has orbiting sand grains too. And there’s 300 billion other stars whizzing around in our little island galaxy we call the Milky Way, which is one of half a trillion other galaxies of stars in the observable Universe. What is remarkable is how much we know about all these stars and galaxies by observing from our little grain of sand. We know their sizes and masses, what they are made of, how they are born, live out their lives, and die. In day 1, we’ll compress 13.8 billion years into an hour or so, and take a tour of all we know about the Universe.
Having recovered from that adventure, Day 2 will be even more remarkable — we’ll explore all we don’t know. This turns out to be a mere 96% of the stuff from which the Universe is made. We’ll visit black holes, the source of gravitational waves, dark matter (which outweighs the stuff we are made of sevenfold), and dark energy which dominates all of spacetime: here, there, and everywhere, the past, the present, and the future.
David Helfand has been a Professor of Astronomy at Columbia University for over 40 years, where he has served as chair of the Department. He is also the former President of the American Astronomical Society and of Quest University Canada. Professor Helfand has received the Columbia Presidential Teaching Award and the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates. He is the author of “A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age.”