Public Understanding of Science

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My main research interests fall into two general areas. The first is in the interface between cosmology, that studies the Universe as a whole, and particle physics, that studies the smallest material constituents of the Universe. We now know that if we are to reconstruct the history of the Universe from its origin to today, we must mix the physics of the very large with the physics of the very small. Here are some of the questions I investigate as part of this research: 

1.Can we understand the origin of the Universe?
2. Where does the matter everything (including us) is made of come from?
3. What are the so-called dark energy and dark matter that drive the expansion of the Universe?
4. Can we understand how simple systems generate complex behavior?

The second general area of my research is the origin of life on Earth and the possibility of life elsewhere in the Universe. How did nonliving chemicals become living entities in early Earth? One of the fundamental questions related to the origin of life is its "handedness," the fact that the biomolecules that make up proteins and nucleic acids (RNA and DNA) fundamental for life show a preferred spatial conformation: amino acids in proteins are left-handed, while sugars in nucleic acids are right-handed. And yet, when synthesized in the lab, they appear with 50-50 mixing. This selection, discovered by Louis Pasteur in the nineteenth century, is a key ingredient in our understanding of the origin of life. Will life in other planets show the same spatial preference? Is is a universal feature of life or is it a local fluke?

For more details, including access to my research publications, please visit my research group's web page.

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Last updated 07 December 2008
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