Why Are We Here? Physics and the Fortunate Universe

A Sydney Ideas, Westmead forum

Co-presented with School of Physics, Faculty of Science

Westmead Universe CMS

5 December, 2016

Over the last 40 years, scientists have uncovered evidence that if the universe had been forged with even slightly different properties, life as we know it - and life as we can imagine it - would be impossible. With small tweaks to the way the universe works, we can erase the periodic table, disintegrate particles and remove all traces of structure in the cosmos.

The fine tuning of the universe for life is a major unsolved problem in the world of physics; it is crying out for an explanation, and leads us to question many of our deepest ideas about how the cosmos works.

Professor Geraint Lewis and Dr Luke Barnes, authors of A Fortunate Universe, offer to take you on a tour of the cosmos, demonstrating that humanity appears to be part of a remarkable set of circumstances involving a special time around a special planet, which orbits a special star, all within a specially constructed universe. It is these sets of conditions that have allowed humans to ponder our place in space and time.

Hosted by Westmead’s Professor Chris Liddle, join us for an intriguing conversation on how we understand the universe, from its most basic particles and forces, to planets, stars and galaxies, and back through cosmic history to the birth of the cosmos.

  • Professor Geraint Lewis is a Professor of Astrophysics at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy. His research focuses upon understanding the dark-side of the universe, both dark matter and dark energy, through a diverse program of theoretical and observational astrophysics. As well as building his own synthetic universes on supercomputers, he uses gravitational lensing to reveal the presence of dark matter, and studies galactic cannibalism, where small dwarf galaxies are torn apart by the much more massive Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxy, to reveal the growth of these galaxies over time.
  • Dr Luke Barnes is a postdoctoral researcher at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy. Having gained his PhD from the University of Cambridge, he has published papers in the field of galaxy formation and on the fine-tuning of the universe for life.
  • Professor Chris Liddle (panel chair) is a leading researcher in diseases of the liver, based at the Storr Liver Centre, The Westmead Institute for Medical Research and Westmead Hospital and is also Professor of Clinical Pharmacology & Hepatology at the University of Sydney. Over the past decade Chris' main area of research has been in the functional genomics of human liver metabolism.

Sydney Ideas, Westmead

Sydney Ideas, Westmead is a new initiative intended to contribute to the inspiring intellectual and cultural atmosphere of the Westmead health services, research and education precinct. Sydney Ideas, Westmead will showcase the excellence of the University of Sydney’s research collaborations with partner organisations at Westmead, including The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, the Children’s Medical Research Institute, the Institute for Clinical Pathology and Medical Research, Kids Research Institute, Westmead Hospital, and The Westmead Institute for Medical Research.

This series of public lectures provides an opportunity for the local community to visit the precinct and hear from leading experts about new research in areas of critical importance to health and medicine. More broadly, the series will also invite speakers from other areas of the University of Sydney to visit Westmead and contribute their knowledge and ideas in forums on topics from across the breadth of academic disciplines – anything from cosmology to Chinese literature, architectural design to classical musicology, and beyond.