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Cosmology and Ambition: Losing the Nobel Prize

Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures

Smithwick Theatre

November 14, 2018

7 p.m.


Archive Story



The talk is part of the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series at Foothill College, now in its 19th year.

What would it have been like to be an eyewitness to the Big Bang? In 2014, astronomers using the powerful BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole thought they’d glimpsed evidence of the period of cosmic inflation at the beginning of time. Millions around the world tuned in to the announcement, and Nobel whispers spread like wildfire. But had these scientists been deceived by a galactic mirage? In this popular-level talk, cosmologist Brian Keating tells the inside story of BICEP2’s detection and the ensuing scientific drama. He provocatively argues that the Nobel Prize actually hampers scientific progress by encouraging speed and competition while punishing inclusivity, collaboration, and bold innovation.

Dr. Keating will autograph copies of his popular book, Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and the Perils of Science’s Highest Honor, after the talk. Copies will be for sale.

Brian Keating is a cosmologist at the University of California San Diego and Principal Investigator of the Simons Observatory collaboration in Chile.. He is the author of more than 100 scientific publications and two U.S. patents. He was a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford and Caltech, and received a 2007 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers for his role in inventing the BICEP telescope. Keating is a commercial pilot with multi-engine, instrument ratings and is a Trustee of the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

Foothill College is just off the El Monte Road exit from Freeway 280 in Los Altos.

For directions and parking information, see:

For a campus map, see:

The lecture is co-sponsored by:

* The Foothill College Physical Science Division

* The SETI Institute

* The Astronomical Society of the Pacific

* NASA’s Ames Research Center.

We get large crowds for these talks, so we ask people to try to arrive a little bit early to find parking. The lecture is free, but there is a charge of $3 for parking on campus and exact change is appreciated.

Past lectures in the series can be found on YouTube at

More Information.