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Institute of Advanced Study

Professor Richard Bower

Richard Bower is Professor in the Department of Physics. His research is shared between observational and theoretical cosmology and in particular, he works on the formation and evolution of galaxies and clusters of galaxies.

While a Christopherson Knott Fellow he will be working on a project called The Emergence of Order in the Universe. In 350 BC, the great philosopher Aristotle argued that the Universe could not have a beginning since its current state was perfect. “How could anything come before?”, he argued, “that state would have to be even more perfect: how could something even more perfect emerge?” Aristotle’s conclusion was that the Universe could have no beginning.

The central idea of Professor Bower's Christopherson Knott Fellowship is to examine Aristotle’s question in terms of the modern cosmological simulations. A modern physicist would be more familiar with talking about the problem in terms of “entropy”, a mathematical measure of the order of a system. However the question remains the same: how can a highly ordered system (the Universe we see today, full of ordered separate galaxies) grow unless the initial state of the Universe is also extremely special (in this case, extremely smooth and uniform). Possibly the answer is that both states are special (even “perfect”), but in opposite ways: Roger Penrose has asserted that the difference can be quantified by tracing the growth of the Weyl tensor, a measure of the contortions of space-time. With the latest computer simulations, we are now in a position to quantify this argument, to test Penrose’ conjecture and (finally) answer Aristotle’s question!

To find out more about Professor Bower, please visit his homepage on the Department of Physic's website: www.dur.ac.uk/physics