International conference to probe dark energy's cosmic mystery

By Jane Christmas, April 27, 2007

    The Origins of Dark Energy conference is jointly organized by McMaster's Origins Institute and the Perimeter Institute.
Dark energy has baffled astronomers since its discovery in 1999. Now, a major international conference will be held at McMaster to better understand this curious phenomenon.

"We know that 70 percent of the universe is made up of dark energy, but we don't know what it is," says Cliff Burgess, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and an organizer of the Origins of Dark Energy conference.

Not to be confused with dark matter, which comprises 25 percent of the universe, Burgess says dark energy's behaviour is particularly unusual.

"It's weirder than dark matter because it repels things gravitationally," he says. "Scientists have been unable to reach consensus on dark energy because it is so difficult to embed into a fundamental theory. We're excited to find out each other's findings and theories."

The Origins of Dark Energy is jointly organized by McMaster's Origins Institute and the Perimeter Institute, with sponsorship from the Canadian Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics. Conference details are available here.

Rocky Kolb, professor and chair of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, will deliver a public lecture at McMaster on May 15 at 8 p.m.

The conference will take place over four days from Monday, May 14 through Thursday, May 17 at McMaster. It will be followed by workshops held from Friday, May 18 through Sunday, May 20 at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo. Conference attendees will be shuttled between the two locations.