Wonder and Awe in the Study of Cosmology
Mila Chadayammuri is a cosmologist — she studies the origin and evolution of the universe. She loves that her profession is “shamelessly” about curiosity.
“I think it’s mind-blowing that we — pretty small creatures on a pretty average planet around a pretty average star in a pretty average galaxy out of hundreds of millions of galaxies in the visible universe — get to use our brains and computers and telescopes to study the deepest mysteries of the universe,” she shares.
Meet Mila: Cosmologist
Center for Astrophysics (Harvard and Smithsonian) in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Mila Chadayammuri: I think I like astronomy because it is so shamelessly about curiosity. You don’t pretend that it’s useful. You’re just curious, and then you go see how you can answer those questions.
I think it’s mind-blowing that we — pretty small creatures on a pretty average planet around a pretty average star in very average galaxy out of hundreds of millions of galaxies in the visible universe — get to use our brains and computers and telescopes to study the deepest mysteries of the universe.
Dark matter makes up about a fourth of the energy budget of the universe, and dark energy is about 70 percent. And all the normal matter, which is everything that you’re familiar with, is just four percent of the universe.
The way that I test different models of dark matter and dark energy is by taking different ideas and then making movies of what those ideas mean for how the universe looks over time. And then I work with my collaborators who actually use telescopes to look at the universe at different points in its history and essentially compare what they see to the movies that I made.
You can know that dark matter is there by looking at how fast stars are moving around the center of a galaxy or how fast galaxies are moving around the center of a galaxy cluster.
People get caught up in all these bizarre notions that are totally constructed about what a meaningful life looks like. No, what matters is how I can see the world around me, and how I can connect to it, and how I can be amazed by it, and how I can pursue that amazement to its end with no ulterior motives, right?
When you tell people you’re an astronomer, the first reaction is, “Wow, I loved space when I was a child.” Almost everybody says that. And you get to be the person who just never stopped.