Public Lecture

Searching in the Sky: Black Holes and Hidden Particles

Masha Baryakhtar

University of Washington

Wed, Jun 21, 5:30–6:30pm

Flug Forum, Aspen Center for Physics

Most of our Universe is dark. It is dark literally: measurements tell us that all the matter we can see makes up only five percent of the content of our Universe. It is also dark conceptually: while we have built a very precise description of the physical world, we know this is only a tiny slice of the entire picture. In this talk, I will tell you about some of the darkest corners of our universe: black holes, from which no light can escape, and hypothetical particles called axions, which interact so feebly with us that we can hardly hope to see them. We will see why particle physicists have been searching for axions over the last four decades, and how astrophysical black holes may, counterintuitively, shed light on their existence.

Masha Baryakhtar Headshot

About Masha Baryakhtar

Masha Baryakhtar is Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Washington. Professor Baryakhtar's research in theoretical particle physics focuses on ideas beyond the Standard Model and on creating new directions for testing them. This includes new physics that solves outstanding puzzles and which may be tested in colliders or in precision experiments;  pinning down the particle nature of dark matter using observations in the sky and in the lab; and the the broader intersection of particle theory with astroparticle physics, cosmology, and gravitational waves.

Born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Professor Baryakhtar moved to the United States in middle school. She received her A.B. summa cum laude in Physics and Mathematics at Harvard University, and her Ph.D. in Physics at Stanford University. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Washington in 2021, Baryakhtar was a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and a James Arthur Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics at New York University.

Heinz R. Pagels Public Lecture Series

Heinz R Pagels was a professor of physics at Rockefeller University, president of the New York Academy of Science, a trustee of the Aspen Institute, and a member of the Aspen Center for Physics for twenty years, serving as a participant, officer, and trustee. He was also President of the International League for Human Rights. His work on chaos theory inspired the character of Ian Malcolm in the Jurassic Park book and movies. A part-time local resident, Professor Pagels died here in a mountaineering accident in 1988. His family and friends instituted the lecture series in his honor because he devoted a substantial part of his life to effective public dissemination of scientific knowledge.

Heinz Pagels