Monday, March 3, 2014- Astronomer Chalence Safranek-Shrader simulates the first stars in the cosmic dark ages 13 billion years ago.

30Mar

The cosmic dark ages is the name for an epoch in history 13 billion years ago, when stars did not yet exist.  UT Austin theoretical astrophysicist Chalence Safranek-Shrader simulates the first stars in the cosmic dark ages.  His tools include pen and paper, laptops, and the super computer "Stampede" at the Texas Advanced Commuting Center (TACC).  Chalence's cosmological simulations are special because they enforce cosmological initial conditions of the Universe.  The approach is to treat little lightyear-sized parcels of the universe as chunks of discretized gas.  The specific technique Chalence prefers is called Adaptive Mesh Refinement, which can follow these discretized parcels of gas, with all the known laws of physics in a huge differential equation.  The super computer can take up to months to crunch all the numbers, generating terabytes of data.  Chalence is finding out behavior of the second generation of stars that formed the bulk of the heavy elements beyond Hydrogen and Helium, and how that led to the end of the cosmic dark ages.  There is not much hope to observe the first stars with a telescope.  However, the next generation James Webb Space Telescope, could detect clusters of first stars, their supernovae, or the first galaxies.

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Monday, March 24, 2014- Director of the Luc Hoffman Institute, Dr. Joshua Tewksbury, tackles the biggest challenges facing global conservation and sustainability development.

24Mar

Dr. Joshua Tewksbury, the Director of the Luc Hoffman institute, joined us in the studio today to talk about the biggest challenges the world must solve in the next decade. Josh is a trained ecologist, natural historian, and conservation biologist and is the Walker Professor of Natural History at the University of Washington. His research group has worked on a broad array of research questions, ranging from the ecological and evolutionary consequences of climate change to the chemical ecology of chilis to the whole ecosystem consequences of bird loss.  In 2013, he joined the World Wildlife Fund in Geneva to launch the Luc Hoffmann Institute, which is a global conservation organization operating at the science to policy interface. Josh discusses how the LHI bridges the gap between scientists and NGO's so that a more sustainable relationship between people and the rest of the planet can be fostered. The objective of the LHI international fellows program is not solely to solve immediate conservation questions but to develop scientific leadership in countries that need it the most. Josh also explains the roles he envisions for science and civil society in solving the most pressing issues in conservation and sustainable development. The biggest issues that impact biodiversity must be presented to decision makers in their terms, and we must create value for the natural capital societies use and embed this value in our economic systems. 

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