Evening of Science Features Yale Nuclear Physicist

Yale University physics professor John W. Harris led Loomis Chaffee faculty and students on Monday, May 16, on a guided tour of the universe, from the Big Bang to the formation of elements, planets, stars, black holes, and galaxies.  

The Evening of Science, which took place in Gilchrist Auditorium in the Clark Center for Science & Mathematics, was organized by the Physics and Astronomy Club and facilitated by senior Lillie Szemraj, outgoing president of the club, and sophomore and incoming president Fedora Liu. 

Professor Harris, an experimental high energy nuclear physicist, used computer simulations, images, and graphs to illustrate his explanation of the beginning of the universe, connecting the atomic makeup of cosmic dust to the formation of the galaxy. He also spoke about unknown matter and energy in our universe. Studies of the cosmic microwave background, he said, detect the presence of “dark energy,” the name given to unknown forces that are causing the universe’s expansion to accelerate. Dark energy combined with dark matter make up almost 95 percent of the matter in the universe, he added.  

Professor Harris also explained the formation of black holes, mentioning the recent picture of a black hole produced by the Event Horizon Telescope. 

Professor Harris is the D. Allen Bromley Professor of Physics at Yale. He received his undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, and his doctorate in experimental nuclear physics from Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York. He has received numerous honors and awards for his work, including the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation Distinguished Senior U.S. Scientist Award in 1994. He was elected a fellow in the American Physical Society in 1996.