Interview with Astronomer Sandra Faber

I’m thrilled to post my interview with Astronomer at the Lick Observatory and UC Santa Cruz Professor Emerita Sandra Faber, Ph.D. to the Rocket Girls Podcast.  Dr. Faber, according to her faculty webpage at UCSC, “focuses on using the lookback power of large telescopes to study the formation and evolution of galaxies.” She has made important discoveries about how the the brightness of galaxies is related to the the speed of stars within them, co-discovered the Faber–Jackson relation, and played a significant role in designing the Keck telescopes in Hawaii.  She was recognized by Discover Magazine as one of the 50 Most Important Women in Science, received the National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama in 2013 and the Gruber Prize in Cosmology in 2017.  Dr. Faber earned her B.A. in n Physics with minors in Mathematics and Astronomy from Swarthmore College, and earned her Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Favorite Segments from the Interview:

Dr. Faber compared the creation of our universe to the rising of a bubble seemingly out of nowhere in a glass of Coca-Cola.

“We’ve all seen a glass of coke Coca-Cola. So, isn’t it amazing that, lets hone in with our little microscope on a little piece of the fluid there while it’s still a fluid, and then just, just like that probably due to a quantum fluctuation, a little bubble appear out of nothing right? So, the surface of that bubble is really like the space in our universe except as we know a surface has two dimensions whereas space and our universe has three. If you’re willing to forget the difference between two and three for a moment and think that we were living in a two-dimensional universe; like flat creatures slithering around on the surface.

Then the appearance of that bubble and its expansion, that’s the point. The new bubble just appears; somehow the motion of the space there just appears out of nothing. We have fluid and a microsecond later we’ve got this surface and then the surface gets bigger. This is really what the big bang was like in our universe. There’s something like the coke and we don’t really know what that something is. Which pre-existed our universe and then suddenly a little seed appeared that had within in all the potential of the space of our universe. That’s the little microscopic bubble and it’s been expanding ever since, but no I would say we’re not creating new space it’s just the space that appeared as the bubble appeared out of nowhere. It’s simply since then getting bigger.”

The Existence of Our Galaxy is Due to Tiny Quantum Density fluctuations at 10-35 seconds (that’s a really, really short amount of time) after the Big Bang.

Advice to Girls Passionate about Science

  • Read magazines like Discover Magazine and Scientific American.  Google things you want to learn about.  Read.
  • Study math and physics in high school.
  • Attend a summer institute to do authentic, publishable, scientific research