Professor Loeb serves as Chair of the Harvard Astronomy department and Director of the Institute for Theory and Computation. He has authored more than 400 research articles and 3 books in astrophysics and cosmology.
Since the Universe is expanding, it must have been denser in the past. But even before we get all the way back to the Big Bang, there must have been a time when stars like our Sun or galaxies like our own Milky Way did not exist because the Universe was denser than they are. We therefore face the important question about our origins: how and when did the first stars and galaxies form? Primitive versions of this question were considered by humans in religious and philosophical texts for thousands of years, long before it was realized that the Universe expands. I will summarize the fundamental principles and scientific ideas that are being used to answer this question now, from the perspective of my own work over the past two decades. Previous generations of scholars have also wondered about the long-term future of the Universe. For the first time in history, we now have a standard cosmological model that agrees with a large body of data about the past history of the Universe. I will describe the forecast made by this scientific model for our future.
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