live webcast to highlight ‘Secrets of the Universe’s First Light’

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Three University of Chicago astrophysicists and another from Stanford University will discuss the first hard evidence that the universe swelled from microscopic to cosmic size in the blink of an eye, during a live webcast from 3 to 3:50 p.m. CDT on Friday, April 18.

The almost unimaginably fast expansion occurred when the universe was only a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second old. Two of the scientists who made this headline-generating discovery last month will converse with two pioneering leaders of the field. Together, they will examine the detection of a distinctive, swirling pattern in the universe’s first light, what the swirl reveals about that monumental growth spurt and the implications for understanding the universe.

Participating in the live webcast, organized by the Kavli Foundation, are:

  • John Carlstrom, the S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics and deputy director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at UChicago. Carlstrom leads two experiments that study the universe’s first light: the South Pole Telescope and the Sunyaev-Zeldovich Array in California.

  • Walter Ogburn, a member of the BICEP2 team that made the discovery and a postdoctoral researcher at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University. He also works at the Keck Array, a suite of telescopes at the South Pole that also searches for twists in the universe’s first light.

  • Michael S. Turner, the Bruce and Diana Rauner Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics and director of UChicago’s Kavli Institute. A theoretical cosmologist, Turner works at the intersection of cosmology and elementary particle physics to understand the origin and evolution of the universe.

  • Abigail Vieregg, a member of the BICEP2 team, an assistant professor in physics and a member of the Kavli Institute at UChicago. She also works with the Keck Array and the ANITA experiment, which studies ultra-high energy cosmic neutrinos.

Questions can be submitted before and during the webcast by email to or posted on Twitter with the hashtag #KavliLive.  




Gravitational waves from inflation generate a faint but distinctive twisting pattern in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background, known as a “curl” or B-mode pattern. Shown here is the actual B-mode pattern observed with the BICEP2 telescope, with the line segments showing the polarization from different spots on the sky. The red and blue shading shows the degree of clockwise and anti-clockwise twisting of this B-mode pattern.

Courtesy of BICEP2 Collaboration

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