Frontiers in Science Lecture: The Square Kilometre Array: Big Telescope, Big Science, Big Data

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The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is a next generation global radio telescope currently undergoing final design by a collaboration of institutions in 11 countries. The SKA will be one of the largest scientific projects ever undertaken, designed to answer some of the big questions of our time: What is Dark Energy? Was Einstein right about gravity? What is the nature of dark matter? Can we detect gravitational waves? When and how did the first stars and galaxies form? What was the origin of cosmic magnetic fields? How do Earth-like planets form? Is there life, intelligent or otherwise, elsewhere in the Universe?

The SKA radio telescope dish array is coming to South Africa toward the end of this decade. When completed it will consist of thousands of radio antennas spread out over an area of thousands of kilometres in Southern Africa.

The SKA will create 3D maps of the universe 10,000 times faster than any imaging radio telescope array ever built. Precursor telescopes based on SKA technologies are under construction here in South African and in Western Australia and will begin scientific investigations in late 2016. These developments foreshadow one of the most significant big data challenges of the coming decade and the beginning a new era of big data in radio astronomy, in which researchers working at the forefront of data science will be a critical part of.

Russ Taylor will deliver the lecture. He is the director of the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy and the South African Joint Research Chair in Radio Astronomy, University of Cape Town and University of Western Cape.

About this Frontiers in Science Lecture

This lecture is one of two activities billed as Bold Ideas in Physics: Celebrating David Ritz Finkelstein

School of Physics Emeritus Professor David Ritz Finkelstein (1929-2016) was the first to show, at age 29, that anything falling inside a black hole cannot escape. The work influenced eminent theoretical physicists, including Lev Landau, Roger Penrose, and John Wheeler. It helped bring general relativity into mainstream physics, encouraging today’s vibrant research on black holes.

Among the first to bring topology into quantum physics, Finkelstein discovered phenomena called “kinks” and solitons and formulated a theory of electroweak unification. He also tried to quantize geometry. But his enduring, bold passion was developing a universal physical theory consistent with both quantum theory and gravity theory.

Harvard University physicist Sidney Coleman, a giant of theoretical physics, described Finkelstein as “a brilliant scientist with a passion for long shots,” and Finkelstein’s work as of “great significance, extraordinary penetration, and ten years ahead of everyone else.”

To celebrate Finkelstein’s life and work, the College of Sciences School of Physics has organized this Frontiers in Science lecture and an exhibit. The activities are made possible in part by a generous contribution from Dr. Ramon and Mrs. Jody Franco.

About the Exhibit

Bold Ideas in Physics: Celebrating David Ritz Finkelstein

The exhibition highlights the life and career contributions of Finkelstein and connects his scientific insights to recent work and discoveries involving Georgia Tech research scientists. Finkelstein’s life-long engagement in scientific inquiry, as well as the inspiration he took from aspects of culture not directly associated with his scientific pursuits, offer a model and example to students and future generations of scientists.

The exhibit runs from Jan. 23 to Feb 19, 2017, in the Ground Floor Atrium of the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons, 4th St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30313.


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