Tag Archives: Lawrence Berkeley Lab

An Astrophysicist’s Take on the End of the Mayan Calendar

The end of the world is nigh. At least, that’s what some people think will happen when the Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012. But Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist George Smoot has an entirely different take, one that honors the remarkable precision of the ancient Mayan astronomers and keeps our planet far from imminent disaster.

In “Mayan Cosmology Ends: Precision Cosmology Progresses,” a public talk delivered in front of the Great Pyramid of Kukulcan at Chichen Itza, the Berkeley Lab scientist discusses what the Mayans achieved solely with the naked eye and comments on the significance of the approaching end of the current World Age of the 5,000-year-long Mayan Long-Count Calendar.

No, the end of the world is not at hand, Smoot says, but it’s true that we’re undergoing a fantastic transition in cosmology. The Mayan view of the universe was based on the sun and moon, a handful of planets, and a couple of thousand stars. Ours is an evolving cosmos reaching back over 13 billion years, based on a cornucopia of data accumulating almost daily and including hundreds of billions of galaxies.

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Nobel Prize Winner in Physics Explores Dark Energy on UCTV

It’s hard to wrap your mind around the idea of an ever-expanding universe. But that’s what this year’s winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics did back in 1998. Using the best tools and minds that science has to offer, two distinct teams of scientists, one led by Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and University of California Berkeley Professor Saul Perlmutter, arrived at the same conclusion — that the universe is not only expanding, it’s accelerating.

In addition to Professor Perlmutter at the Supernova Cosmology Project, the other half of this prestigious prize was awarded jointly to Brian P. Schmidt at Australian National University and Adam G. Riess at Johns Hopkins University and Space Telescope Science Institute. You can find the official announcement from the Nobel Prize organization here.

In January 2010, UCTV premiered a program from Lawrence Berkeley Lab featuring Saul Perlmutter, along with his colleagues Alexie Leauthaud of the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics and David Schlegel of Baryon Oscillation Spectroscope Survey, in a public conversation about the suspected cause of the universe’s accelerated expansion, dark energy, an elusive force that remains science’s biggest unsolved mystery. You can watch the program or download and audio or video podcast file here:

Dark Secrets: What Science Tells Us About the Hidden Universe

Want to know more? Check out these related programs:

Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe

Millennium Lecture: Dark Matter And the Ultimate Fate of the Universe

Atoms to X-rays: The Mystery of Empty Space: Higgs Bosons, Vacuum Energy and Extra Dimensions

More programs in Astrophysics, Cosmology, Astronomy and Space Sciences

Congratulations Professor Perlmutter and all the Nobel Prize winners! You can find more Nobel Laureates on UCTV here.

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