December 10, 2004  


Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics Comes to Stanford

By Heather Rock Woods

The Texas at Stanford symposium kicks off on December 13—not with 10-gallon hats and cowboy boots, but with black holes, string theory, the early universe and high energy particles.

The 22nd Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics, first held in Dallas in 1963, comes to Stanford this year after traveling to cities around the world.

"The conference serves as an international summary and forum on recent developments in particle astrophysics, cosmology, astrophysics and gravity. In terms of the interface between these fields, it is the meeting in the world," said local organizing co-chair Elliott Bloom (GLAST/KIPAC).

One measure of the Texas Symposia’s success is a textbook on cosmology that traces the history of recent ideas on dark matter and the formation of large-scale structure in the universe through the progression of symposia, according to Bloom.

A major reason to hold the meeting at Stanford this time is the recent establishment of the joint SLAC/Stanford Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC). The event is also sponsored by DOE, NASA, NSF, Sun, Lockheed Martin and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP).

"KIPAC promises to be an important contributor to the theoretical and observational issues that are the focus of this conference," said KIPAC Director Roger Blandford.

SLAC conference planner Maura Chatwell (COM) expects more than 500 attendees. "This is a cooperative effort between the Stanford University Department of Physics and SLAC and KIPAC," she said.

The meeting takes place on the Stanford campus, with a reception and tour at SLAC on December 14. Andrei Linde (Stanford) will give a public lecture at Stanford on December 15 (see Symposium Public Lecture, page 1).

The symposium has proven to be a fruitful means of interaction between scientists in increasingly overlapping fields, as well as an attractive forum for younger and international researchers.

Relativistic astrophysicists study strong gravity, exhibited in black holes and neutron stars, which needs to be treated with general relativity rather than Newtonian physics. They also investigate relativistic particles, which are fast moving high-energy particles.

The scope of the conference has continued to expand over the years as experimental data and experiments bring to light new insights and questions about the universe. The plenary talks cover topics such as the ‘early’ universe, the ‘local’ universe and high-energy particles, with a focus on results from various land- and space-based experiments.

Popular author and physicist Brian Greene (Columbia) will talk about string theory, which offers "a leading hope for understanding the true physical details of what happened at the origin of the universe and soon after," Bloom said.

Helen Quinn (THP) will speak on CP violation, a theory which partly explains the discrepancy between matter and antimatter in our universe.

With the amount of mind-boggling information circulating, big hats may well be needed.

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Last update Wednesday December 08, 2004 by Emily Ball