February 10, 2003
Berkeley Lab Research News
The History and Fate of the Universe Chart Debuts
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BERKELEY, CA  What time did the universe begin? When did the first star appear? How long will the universe last? A colorful, graphically rich chart that illustrates and summarizes what is now known about the history and fate of the universe has been developed by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) in collaboration with the Contemporary Physics Education Project (CPEP). More than 11,000 copies of this chart are being distributed this month through The Physics Teacher magazine to high school science teachers across the nation for field-testing with their students.

"I congratulate the physicists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who collaborated to produce this thoughtful, thorough and very engaging educational resource," said Dr. Raymond L. Orbach, Director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, which oversees and funds DOE's national laboratories. "The History and Fate of the Universe poster is a wonderful example of the contributions that researchers at our national laboratories can make to science education for America's teachers and students alike."

The History and Fate of the Universe chart was first proposed about three years ago by Berkeley Lab physicists George Smoot and Michael Barnett.

"The hardest part in doing a chart like this is deciding what to include and what to exclude; the more we included the more we had to cut out," says Smoot, who is best-known for his pivotal role in the discovery of radiation ripples in the infant universe that grew into the galaxies of stars we see today.

"With field-testing, we'll have a better idea of what works and what doesn't work on the chart," says Barnett who has played key roles in the development of three other charts which serve as guides to discoveries in particle physics, nuclear physics, and fusion energy and have been highly popular with teachers and students alike.

With the help of Berkeley Lab colleagues Eric Linder and Saul Perlmutter, plus Lincoln Sanders, who designed the graphics, and a number of other volunteers from around the world, Smoot and Barnett were able to pack plenty of information into the History and Fate of the Universe chart, covering a broad range of cosmological topics.

The centerpiece is an evolutionary timeline that takes viewers from 10-44 seconds, when the universe was much smaller than a proton, to the current era, about 14 billion years later, when the visible universe contains 4 x 1011 billion galaxies. Side panels provide short discussions on the birth, inflation and expansion of the universe, the cosmic microwave background, redshifts of distant supernovas, dark energy, dark matter, and what appears to be the ultimate fate of the universe based on what is now known.

The History and Fate of the Universe chart can be viewed on the Internet at http://UniverseAdventure.org. This Website will be providing supplemental material including a glossary of terms, and an article written to accompany the chart's publication by Lawrence M. Krauss, the award-winning Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics and Professor of Astronomy at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. Krauss is the author of the national best-seller The Physics of Star Trek and several other well-received books on astrophysics and cosmology.

"New observations of the ground, in the air, and in space, combined with exciting new theoretical insights have, over the past decade or two, literally revolutionized our picture of the universe in which live," writes Krauss. "Ideas that were essentially pure speculation 20 years ago now rest firmly on the bedrock of experiment. At the same time, many new questions have arisen and some once firmly held notions about the future of the universe have been displaced."

Development of the History and Fate of the Universe chart was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. Teachers wishing to participate in the field-testing of the chart should visit CPEP's Website at http://cpepweb.org/fieldtest.

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California. Visit our Website at www.lbl.gov/.

George Smoot can be contacted at (510)486-5505 or by e-mail at GFSmoot@lbl.gov

Michael Barnett can be contacted at (510)486-5650 or by e-mail at RMBarnett@lbl.gov