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The Milky Way, Schroedinger’s Cat, and You. Galaxies, the Building Blocks of the Universe. Raja Guha Thakurta (in collaboration with Sandra Faber) UCO/Lick Observatory University of California at Santa Cruz.

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the milky way schroedinger s cat and you

The Milky Way, Schroedinger’s Cat,and You

Galaxies, the Building Blocks of the Universe

Raja Guha Thakurta

(in collaboration with Sandra Faber)

UCO/Lick Observatory

University of California at Santa Cruz

Thursday, September 23, 2004 Astronomy 2 (ASTR –002-02)

Kresge Town Hall Overview of the Universe

your cosmic history an astronomer s perspective

You are here!

Your Cosmic History(an astronomer’s perspective)


Protein molecules:

Basic building blocks of life

Earth and Sun:

Home of the C,N,O atoms from which

these protein molecules were assimilated

Sun’s ancestral stars:

Their nuclear fusion reactions

produced these C,N,O atoms


Large family

of stars

where did the milky way come from
Where did the Milky Way Come From?

The Answer Will Take Us Back to the Earliest Moments of the Universe

points to ponder
Points to Ponder
  • Our bio-chemical history links us to galaxies
  • The Milky Way and other galaxies
  • Galaxies like to live near one another
  • The formation of galaxies: The growth of primordial density fluctuations under the influence of gravity
quantum noise
Quantum Noise

0.5 1.0

0.9995 1.0000

Energy density of the Universe

0 0.99995 1.00000

0.995 1.000

Position in Space

Number of radiactive decays per minute

020 40

Number of kernels popping per minute

020 40

0 10 20 30






Schroedinger’s Cat(a “thought experiment” by Erwin Schroedinger)


A rapid and dramatic phase of expansion shortly after the Big Bang blows up these quantum fluctuations and “freezes” them into the fabric of the Universe. These are the seeds of cosmic structure.


points to ponder12
Points to Ponder
  • The Universe is Nature’s ultimate example of Schroedinger’s cat
  • Inflation is a very, very brief period of extremely rapid expansion in the infancy of the Universe
  • We have quantum mechanics and gravity to thank for the existence of galaxies like our Milky Way and indeed for our own existence
distant galaxies are small and ragged
Distant Galaxies Are Small and Ragged

Infant galaxy

Young galaxy

Mature galaxy


The Hubble Space Telescope is in orbit above the Earth’s atmosphere and so is able to take sharp pictures……but…..

….. it is prohibitively expensive to build telescopes that are based in space

A new method called “Adaptive Optics” allows us to sharpen the vision of telescopes that are on the ground, by correcting for the blurring caused by the Earth’s atmosphere

points to ponder24
Points to Ponder
  • Galaxy cannibalism is a common phenomenon in which small serve as buildingblocks from which larger galaxies are assembled
  • Telescopes are time-machines that enable us to peer into the Universe’s distant past
  • The after-glow from the Big Bang and early hot phase of the Universe is visible today and indeed even the wrinkles on the face of the early Universe are visible

Infant galaxy

Spiral galaxy

like our own

Sun’s stellar ancestors


Our planet & star

Protein molecule

Completing the Cycle……