Cosmologist to give talk on development of universe

By By Warren Arceneaux / American Press

Cosmologist and Lake Charles native Mark

Wyman will discuss the early stages of the universe’s development

during a lecture

at McNeese State University. He will present “What Happened Before

There Was Light? The Universe’s First Moments and the Big

Bang” at 7 p.m. Monday, April 14, at the Burton Conference Center.

The lecture is hosted by the McNeese Honors College. Wyman,

a McNeese alumnus, who currently is a postdoctoral fellow at New

York University’s Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics.

A childhood fascination with the stars never left Wyman, who earned degrees in physics, math and literature at McNeese before

moving on to grad school at Cornell University.

“My parents told me that when I was little I liked to carry around an encyclopedia of astronomy,” he said.

Wyman said discussions about the universe’s origins are always popular.

“In the purely technical sense of my scientific interest, the thing that is most interesting about it is that it is the period

where the least is known,” he said.

“We understand the physical laws of

this time, of everyday life quite well by now. To find new things, you

have to go look

for periods that are more exotic and different from our everyday

experience. This could not be more different from our everyday

experience. The amazing thing is we actually have observations

that we can do to tell us something about then, we can speculate

about it. We have observations we can do to test our speculation.

“On the purely speculative side, over

the past century the theoretical physicists have worked out a very

powerful framework

of mathematical tools that we can use to study the universe. The

mathematical tools have been tested against a lot of physical

processes by now.

“On the observational side, there has

been a great deal of progress over the last 20 years in studying some of

the oldest

light in the universe. In the aftermath of the big bang the

universe was very hot, so there is light that is left over from

that very early period called cosmic microwave background

radiation. One of the big pushes over the past 20 years has been

to build better and better telescopes to observe that ancient

light. That is the best observational handle we have on the

very early universe. That is one of the things I will be focusing

on in the talk.”

Wyman said interesting findings have been made recently.

“There is a telescope in the South Pole

called the BICEP telescope. It observes the polarization of the

microwave background

radiation. It was thought that it could potentially exist but had

not been observed before. It is very hard to observe, but

they were able to find a signal that was predicted 30 years ago.

By finding the signal, we learned a great deal from it about

the early universe.”

Lectures provide a chance for Wyman to take a break from research and share his expertise.

“Whenever you are among specialists all the time it is easy to get caught up in the minutiae, the technical details where

you don’t know what the answer is and it is confusing, and you are trying to figure out something new and understand those

details,” he said.

“That is a lot of hard work. Giving a

public lecture gives you a chance to step back and think about not what

you don’t know,

but what you do understand and communicate that to other people,

which is always an enjoyable experience. It is really fascinating

and reminds you what you like about the job.”