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Weaving Dark Matter’s Cosmic Web With Supercomputers and String

Art and science collide in this talk about astronomy, supercomputing, and data visualization by Dr. Benedikt Diemer. Part of the Cambridge Science Festival.


Astrophysicists today agree that dark matter is all around us, permeating the universe in a massive, filamentary structure. We call this structure the cosmic web. But how did we come to live inside this web of obscurity, and how do we know what it looks like if we can’t actually see it? In this talk, I will describe how astrophysicists like myself use supercomputers to simulate virtual universes, which in turn help us understand how the cosmic web formed through the gravitational collapse of matter from the Big Bang until today. I will also share photos of artworks that represent the cosmic web in the form of massive, three-dimensional, woven textiles. We hope to bring these installations to Cambridge in the near future.


Dr. Benedikt Diemer is a NASA Einstein Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He grew up in Munich, Germany, and has spent the last 10 years in Chicago and Boston pursuing his passion for astronomy and supercomputing. Benedikt’s research focuses on how galaxies form, including the dark matter halos that surround them. He is always exploring new ways to visualize scientific data. In this vein, he co-founded an art and science collaboration called “Fabric of the Universe,” which was fortunate enough to exhibit its latest textile installation at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.