University of Chicago

Why This Universe?

The biggest ideas in physics, broken down. Join theoretical physicist Dan Hooper and co-host Shalma Wegsman as they answer your questions about dark matter, black holes, quantum mechanics, and more.


Dan Hooper

Professor, Astronomy and Astrophysics

My research focuses on the interface between particle physics and cosmology. Particle physics explores the fundamental nature of energy and matter, while cosmology is the science of the universe itself, including its composition, history and evolution. Some of the areas of this field that I have worked on include dark matter, supersymmetry, high-energy neutrinos, extra dimensions and ultra-high energy cosmic rays. As the new field of astro-particle physics rapidly develops, we are witnessing an exciting time in the history of science. In addition to the progress being made in the traditional areas of experimental particle physics (accelerator experiments), exciting developments are also taking place in the use of astrophysical experiments to study elementary particles. The most striking example of this success is the measurement of the neutrino masses and mixing angles that have been made over the last decade. Many of the questions asked by particle physicists are difficult to address with collider experiments and are being explored ever increasingly by astrophysicists. These efforts include the development of particle dark matter searches, ultra-high energy cosmic rays detectors, gamma-ray telescopes and high-energy neutrino telescopes. My research is focused primarily, although not entirely, on studying and exploring particle physics beyond the Standard Model using astrophysics. When I'm not doing physics, I'm often playing guitar, listening to records, fixing myself a cocktail, and/or curling up with a book on philosophy that I just haven't been able to understand yet.

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Shalma Wegsman

Trained Physicist

Shalma is a trained physicist who works in the intersection of physics and media. She currently works at Intercept Games as a physics game developer, where she develops the physics simulation behind Kerbal Space Program 2. She also co-hosts, edits, and produces the podcast Why This Universe? which brings research-level physics topics down to the popular level.

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