From the May 2015 issue

Abraham Loeb: From cosmic origins to our galaxy’s fate

This theoretical physicist and philosophical thinker discusses diversity, the first stars, the future of cosmology, the way physics makes progress, and more.
By | Published: May 6, 2015 | Last updated on May 18, 2023

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Superstars of Astronomy: Abraham LoebDownload
Abraham (“Avi”) Loeb
Kris Snibbe (Harvard Staff Photographer); podcast music provided by Getty Images
Theoretical physicist Abraham Loeb, chair of the Harvard astronomy department, studies a broad range of topics in astrophysics and cosmology, from the first stars and galaxies to the future of extragalactic astronomy, with more than 400 research articles and three books to his name. Among other things, he is famous for his work studying the future merger of the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxy and coining its eventual name, “Milkomeda.”

In this hourlong conversation with Editor David J. Eicher, Loeb explains the unconventional  way he got into astrophysics, having originally wanted to study philosophy. He goes on to talk about how his background has inspired him to push for diversity in the field of astronomy and why he feels it’s important to have “different matches in your matchbox” at Harvard in order to continually challenge mainstream thinking [9:35]. Eicher next asks about Loeb’s studies in cosmology, and the professor discusses the state of knowledge about the first stars and galaxies and the role computer simulations play in our understanding [20:44]. Finally, Loeb turns the expansion of the universe and the fate of the galaxy [37:18] before concluding by highlighting some of his latest research on runaway stars, black holes, and the search for life in the universe [50:00].

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