Foothill hosts lecture on universe's origins

UC Berkeley astrophysical theorist Eliot Quataert, Ph.D., is scheduled to present an illustrated, nontechnical lecture, “How the Universe Went from Smooth to Lumpy: The Modern Origins Story,” 7 p.m. Oct. 2 in Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College, 12345 S. El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills.

Quataert’s talk, part of the 14th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, will offer an overview of the modern understanding of the universe’s origins in astrophysics.

According to Quataert, the story begins in the infant universe, which scientists now know was remarkably smooth compared to what people see around them today, with only tiny differences in its properties from one part to another. By contrast, in the present universe, there are enormous differences in the properties of matter in different locations – some regions host planets, stars and galaxies (and even humans), while others are cold and mostly empty.

Quataert will describe how the universe has evolved to its current state, emphasizing how gravity reigns supreme and builds up the planets, stars and galaxies required for biological evolution to proceed. He will show how, in addition to their scientific importance, these ideas have far-reaching philosophical and religious implications.

A professor of astronomy and physics at UC Berkeley, Quataert holds the Thomas & Alison Schneider Chair in Physics and is director of Berkeley’s Theoretical Astrophysics Center. He works on a wide range of problems, from the astrophysics of stars and black holes to how different types of galaxies form. He has received a number of national awards for his research.

The Foothill College Astronomy Program, the NASA Ames Research Center, the SETI Institute and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific co-sponsor the free lecture series.

Admission is free and open to the public. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. Visitors must purchase a parking permit for $3 from dispensers in any student parking lot. Dispensers accept one-dollar bills and quarters; bring exact change.

For more information, call 949-7888 or visit

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