Invited_talk abstract details

Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos
Joel Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams


The modern theory of the composition, evolution, and structure of the universe had its origins in the early 1980s, and in the past decade the astronomical evidence for it has become extremely strong. We now know that the vast majority of the universe is invisible dark energy and cold dark matter, with stars, gas, planets, and other visible stuff making up only about 0.5% of the cosmic density. The new cosmology gives us a new perspective on how we fit into the universe. We humans are made of the rarest material in the universe, relatively heavy atoms like oxygen and carbon that are forged in stars. Our size is midway between the largest and smallest sizes, the cosmic horizon and the Planck scale. We also live at the center of time from the perspective of the cosmos, of our solar system, and of life on earth. There is no geographic center of the expanding universe, but we humans are turning out to be central to the principles that underlie the new cosmology.