2013 – Joe Silk

Professor Joe Silk is one of the world’s leading cosmologists, with over 500 publications covering the leading edge questions about our Universe that have arisen in every decade stretching back to the period when the photon afterglow of the Big Bang was first discovered in the mid-60s. He is especially known for the theory of inhomogeneities of this cosmic microwave background, how they are influenced by density fluctuations in the matter in the early epochs of the universe, and how they are “Silk-damped” at small scales, results verified with high precision, most recently by the Planck satellite. He has made pioneering advances in understanding the nature of dark matter, and explored novel indirect methods for its detection from its annihilation in cosmic collisions in the core regions of galaxies, inspiring very large experiments with new types of telescopes to observe the predicted gamma ray emissions. Silk’s studies of galaxy formation and the important role energetic feedback from quasars, star explosions, and related processes play in determining their formation and evolution have been equally influential.

Joe is much sought after as an expositor of all matters cosmic, having delivered over 200 public and invited conference talks, and written three acclaimed “popular science” books, “On the Shores of the Unknown: A Short History of the Universe”, “The Big Bang”, and “Cosmic Enigmas”.

Joe studied Mathematics at the University of Cambridge (1960-1963), earned a PhD in Astronomy from Harvard in 1968, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Cambridge and Princeton, before taking up a professorial appointment at Berkeley in 1970. He took up the Savilian Chair of Astronomy at Oxford from 1999-2011. Forever young, Joe continues a large research program in his two current positions, as Homewood Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins and as Researcher at the Institute D’Astrophysique de Paris. Silk has received many honours in his long career, most recently the prestigious Balzan Prize in 2011. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, and has the further Canadian distinction of being an Associate of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Cosmology and Gravity Program.

Public Lecture: “From Here to Eternity”

Technical Talk: “Unleashing Feedback: The Star Formation– Super Massive Black Hole Connection”