Astrophysics Knowns and Unknowns

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations
Tuesday, December 20, 2016, Belmont Media Center

Priyamvada Natarajan, Ph.D.,Professor of Astronomy and Professor of Physics, Yale University. Dr. Natarajan also holds the Sophie and Tycho Brahe Professorship of the Dark Cosmology Center, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She was also elected to an Honorary Professorship for life at the University of Delhi, India.

Dr. Natarajan discusses fundamental knowns and unknowns of astrophysics and how scientists gradually unravel the mysteries of the universe. She discusses the importance of the "provisionality" of science: the ability to hypothesize and to adjust one's thinking and ideas as facts emerge. This scientific mentality is necessary for both science literacy and civic literacy today. Dr. Natarajan also talks about her recent work on the earliest black holes and how her group's theory will be confirmed --or disconfirmed-- when the James Webb telescope is launched in 2018.

In addition to her research, Dr. Natarajan is seriously committed to improving public understanding of science. This effort is represented in her many public talks and interviews, her 2016 book, Mapping the Heavens, and numerous articles and book reviews for the general public. In a July 2016 visit with Science for the Public, Dr. Natarajan talked about the historical resistance to a number of concepts and discoveries in astrophysics --all of which are fully accepted today-- as described in her book, Mapping the Heavens. In tonight's program, Dr. Natarajan discusses fundamental knowns and unknowns of astrophysics --and what is most important for the public to understand.

December 2016 Scientific American interview

Priyamvada Natarajan's NYRB articles

Distinctions and Awards

  • elected Fellow, American Physical Society
  • Guggenheim Fellowship, 2010-2011
  • Radcliffe Fellow, 2008-2009
  • elected Fellow, Explorers Club
  • India Empire NRI award for Achievement in the Sciences
  • Caroline Herschel Distinguished Visitor at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore (2011-2012)