Casimir Cosmology

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Quantum Seminar

by Ulf Leonhardt, Weizmann Institute of Science



In 1998 astronomers discovered that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. Somehow, something must have made gravity repulsive on cosmological scales. This something was called dark energy, and it amounts to about 70% of the total mass of the universe. It has been conjectured that dark energy is a form of vacuum energy, but its prediction from quantum field theory has failed by many orders of magnitude. The lecture shows how a theory informed by empirical evidence on Casimir forces does produce the correct order of magnitude and agrees with astronomical data, and how subtle this is.



Ulf Leonhardt is the Murray B. Koffler Professorial Chair in Physics at the Weizmann Institute of Science. He was born in Schlema, in former East Germany, in 1965. He studied physics at Friedrich-Schiller University Jena, at Moscow State University and at Humboldt University Berlin where he received his PhD in 1993. He was a Visiting Scholar at the Oregon Center for Optics in the US, a Habilitation Fellow at the University of Ulm in Germany and a Göran-Gustafson and Feodor-Lynen fellow at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. From 2000 until his appointment at the Weizmann Institute in 2012, he was the Chair in Theoretical Physics at the University of St Andrews, UK. Ulf Leonhardt also had various visiting positions: in 2008 he was a Visiting Professor at the National University of Singapore and in 2011 at the University of Vienna; in 2012/13 he was an adjunct professor at South China Normal University.

Ulf Leonhardt is the first from former East Germany to receive the Otto Hahn Award of the Max Planck Society. For his PhD thesis he received the Tiburtius Prize of the Senate of Berlin. In 2006 Scientific American listed him among the top 50 policy, business and research leaders of the world of that year. In 2008 he received a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award and in 2009 a Theo Murphy Blue Skies Award of the Royal Society. In 2012 he received a thousand-talent award of China. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.


Hosted by Prof. Juan P. Torres


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