Virtual Event: Andrew Pontzen


The Universe in a Box:
Simulations and the Quest to Code the Cosmos

in conversation with ATINÇ ÇAĞAN ŞENGÜL


July 28, 2023
12:00 PM ET


Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.


Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration

Harvard Book Store, the Harvard University Division of Science, and the Harvard Library welcome ANDREW PONTZEN—professor of cosmology at University College London—for a discussion of his new book The Universe in a Box: Simulations and the Quest to Code the Cosmos. He will be joined in conversation by prospective Samuel P. Langley Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, ATINÇ ÇAĞAN ŞENGÜL.

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About The Universe in a Box

Cosmology is a tricky science—no one can make their own stars, planets, or galaxies to test its theories. But over the last few decades a new kind of physics has emerged to fill the gap between theory and experimentation. Harnessing the power of modern supercomputers, cosmologists have built simulations that offer profound insights into the deep history of our universe, allowing centuries-old ideas to be tested for the first time. Today, physicists are translating their ideas and equations into code, finding that there is just as much to be learned from computers as experiments in laboratories.

In The Universe in a Box, cosmologist Andrew Pontzen explains how physicists model the universe’s most exotic phenomena, from black holes and colliding galaxies to dark matter and quantum entanglement, enabling them to study the evolution of virtual worlds and to shed new light on our reality.

But simulations don’t just allow experimentation with the cosmos; they are also essential to myriad disciplines like weather forecasting, epidemiology, neuroscience, financial planning, airplane design, and special effects for summer blockbusters. Crafting these simulations involves tough compromises and expert knowledge. Simulation is itself a whole new branch of science, one that we are only just beginning to appreciate and understand. The story of simulations is the thrilling history of how we arrived at our current knowledge of the world around us, and it provides a sneak peek at what we may discover next.

Praise for The Universe in a Box

“Andrew Pontzen gives a vivid perspective on what it's like to be a scientist trying to 'model' the universe—and doesn't shy away from highlighting the mysteries that are coming into focus. This fascinating book, written with clarity and zest, deserves wide readership.” —Martin Rees, Great Britain’s Astronomer Royal

“An electrifying new history of the universe and how it all fits together, and of the human effort to unlock its mysteries.” —Hannah Fry, Professor in the Mathematics of Cities at the UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis and author of Hello World

"Our reality is most likely not a simulation, but it is stunning just how powerful modern simulations have become in describing it. Forget telescopes and microscopes, Pontzen's laboratory sits inside his computer and it is quickly becoming the most important tool in science." —Jim Al-Khalili, Distinguished Chair, Professor of Physics, University of Surrey and author of The World According to Physics

Andrew Pontzen
Andrew Pontzen

Andrew Pontzen

Andrew Pontzen is a professor of cosmology at University College London. He has written for New Scientist, BBC Sky at Night, and BBC Focus; lectured at the Royal Institution; and been featured as an expert on PBS’s NOVA, the Discovery Channel’s How the Universe Works, and other shows. Simulations are a major part of his research which spans cosmology, physics and computation. He lives in London.

Photo credit: Anna Hobbs

Atınç Çağan Şengül
Atınç Çağan Şengül

Atınç Çağan Şengül

My name is Atınç Çağan Şengül, and I am currently a prospective Samuel P. Langley Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh. My research primarily focuses on studying the properties and dynamics of dark matter. I am particularly interested in investigating cosmological and astrophysical observations to uncover potential evidence for physics beyond the standard model. In 2018, I completed my BA in Physics at the University of Chicago, and I recently obtained my PhD in physics from Harvard University, where I worked on strong gravitational lensing under the supervision of Cora Dvorkin.

Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Event Series: Harvard Science Book Talks

The Harvard Science Book Talks series is a collaboration between the Harvard University Division of Science, the Harvard Library, and Harvard Book Store. The series features talks by the authors of recently published books on a variety of science-related topics and is open to both the Harvard community and to the general public. Typically, lectures are followed by a book signing with the author and refreshments. Learn more and watch recordings of past talks here

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