Award-Dr. Roxanne Springer
Professor Carlos Frenk of the University of Durham was the first official guest lecturer under the auspices of this new exchange program. Professor Frenk is a well-known astrophysicist who investigates the formation of large-scale structure in the cosmos. The following article appeared in the Duke Dialogue on the occasion of his visit in October 1998.
The VIRGO website displays four1996 front-page pictures in The New York
Times, each representing a separate calculation of how galaxies might have
coalesced into patterns resembling today's universe. Work like this requires
awesome amounts of supercomputing power. VIRGO currently has access to
a Cray T3E supercomputer at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in
Munich, Germany, that can perform simultaneous calculations on 672 processors.
It also is using a 256-processor Cray T3E in Edinburgh, Scotland.
According to this emerging picture, the seeds for galaxies were sown by subatomic changes called "quantum fluctuations" only an infinitesimally small part of a fraction of a second after the Big Bang itself, when the universe was tiny. Those fluctuations are what led to the ripples in the Cosmic Background Radiation 100,000 years later, when the rapidly expanding universe was much larger.
Following the template of the ripples, the modern universe may have
arranged itself under the collective gravitational influences of all the
matter that astronomers can detect in the radiation from stars and gaseous
nebulae, plus the gravitational tugs of a suspected much larger amount
of unseen "dark matter."
Frenk visited Duke as part of an exchange program with Durham, England, the medieval city where he has lived and worked since 1986. "It is dominated completely by this fantastic 11th century cathedral which even the French guidebooks say is the most imposing Norman cathedral in the world," he said.
With traffic patterns laid down in the Middle Ages, "it is pointless to drive" in most of his city, "so it's all pedestrian," Frenk added. "I only use a car on Saturdays to go to the supermarket, and on Sundays to go to places for hiking. Also, we don't have the concept of the university campus that you have here. The University of Durham is spread all over the whole city.
"The only thing that we share is the rain," Frenk said, who arrived in the Triangle during a welcome wet spell following a dry summer.
The VIRGO website is at http://www.mpa-garching.mpg.de/~jgc/sim_virgo.html
Article in Duke Dialogue by Monte Basgall
Last modified: 29-Jan-99