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Images of the Infant Universe: Latest Results from the Planck Satellite is my November 2014 contribution to the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series.  I created most of the material for this hour-long talk in the month after watching the Hamm/Nye debate about creationism. I was disappointed that Nye did not more directly tackle Hamm's claim that we cannot know about things we cannot see. Due to the amazing regularity of physical law we, in fact, can! In this talk I discuss the extreme simplicity of physical law, the discovery of Neptune, Einstein's theory of general relativity, the discovery of the expansion of space, and how 20th century researchers stumbled upon the big bang. Toward the end I present the latest results from the Planck satellite, a satellite that allows us to directly see in quite some detail what the universe looked like when it was about 14 billion years younger. I have also given just about the same talk under the title, "Confirmed Truths and Remaining Mysteries Regarding the Origin of the Universe." 

The organizers of Wonderfest asked Berkeley cosmologist Professor Chung-Pei Ma and me to wrestle with the question "Do We Understand the Large-scale Structure of the Universe?" It probably won't be much of a spoiler to let you know right here that there are things we don't understand and things we do understand. I'd advise you to skip over the very cheesy introduction and right into the meat of things. The question and answer session at the end of this is particularly good, in my opinion.

This is a video I made with a couple undergraduate students and my older son, Teddy Knox. In it we introduce Teddy, 11 years old at the time, to the cosmic microwave background. It is the first and most successful production of The Spherical Cow Company, covered here in the blog Cosmic Variance. I look like quite a dork in the very beginning, but it gets better from there.

In this TEDxDavis talk in 2011, "A Sample Size of One," I reveal some of my own inner experiences starting from the time that I first developed an interest in science in high school in the eighties, through to 2011. I discuss the roles played by curiosity, playfulness, ambition, and fear. My intention in creating this presentation is that it would help some younger scientists make sense of their own emotional experience. 


The title is an admission that I am not presenting the result of a scientific study, but rather simply my own experience. It also alludes to the fact that we have some limitations in cosmology from the fact that we have but one universe to study. 


Those who find this talk interesting may also want to read my 2014 blog post, Sweet is the Melody.

"The Universe According to Planck," a 40-minute presentation in the Kavli Keynote Session of the April 2013 meeting of the American Physical Society.


This talk is intended for a broad audience of physicists, introducing them to the first cosmological results from the Planck satellite less than a month after their release in March of 2013. The instruments have performed beautifully. The scientific collaboration did as well, processing the data into some really cool results. It was a great privilege to get to report on them in this venue. 


And if you have scrolled






far, you are now ready for








Below is our award-winning entry into our local music store's monthly video contest, "The Purple Puma." The good people of Watermelon Music invented the category of "Critic's Choice" just for us! They wrote,


"While your video did not have the greatest number of views, it was so creative and entertaining that we wanted to reward you somehow. We'd like to give you a $50.00 Gift Card as a "Critic's Choice" award for the Purple Puma. You can stop byWatermelon Music and pick itup at your convenience. Thanks a lot."


Woo hoo! Cash prize!! 

I wrote the lyrics to "Dark Energy" in Fall 2008, borrowing the music from "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel. I first performed it for a class in Spring 2009. Student Dani Lu managed to record it on her phone and post it to Youtube. Thank you, Dani! 


The song is meant to express the grandeur of the cosmological quest. 

Dark Energy


Sometimes the death of a star

Casts its light very far, Glowing like a hundred billion Suns.

One per galaxy per century

But the galaxies are plenty

So one can be seen every night

Far and bright

But dimmer than we expected them to be


The light roars across space

The great vastness we face, stretching as space expands

With big telescopes we catch

And we measure the stretch;

It is less than we expected it to be

Can't believe

How the rate of space creation has increased


What is causing this rush?

This late great cosmic flush, hurtling all things apart

Cosmo constant, scalar field,

No compelling theories yield

To the best of our creative and daring minds

Young and bright

Who strain, and reach, and struggle to know why



And how expansion used to be

How you'd recede away from me

It was fast but slowing down

Maybe you'd even start approaching


But now He's speeding up the rate

Out of contact is our fate

Dark energy is all around

Diluting everything it's not



What a strange thing in space

We have found from this place

That is circling all `round the Sun.


We will unveil a clue

Then we'll know how it all holds together

And we'll mark

One more milepost on our never-ending quest


Copyright 2008 Lloyd Knox

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