"Large-Scale Structure in the Universe: Walls, Voids, Filaments and the End of Greatness"

We asked Kathryn Stanonik, a graduate student at Columbia University’s department of astronomy, to summarize her Friday 22 lecture in 60 seconds or less. We kindly created footnotes for the dummies in the room. For more info, go to astro.columbia.edu.

“The idea is, if you look at the area around us, do you expect to see structure? If you look on small scales close to our sun, you see stars that are fairly uniformly distributed.1 But if you look farther out, you see that we’re part of a spiral arm in our galaxy.2 You look at galaxies near us and the question is, Do we see galaxies just randomly distributed in the universe or do we see some structure? We actually see huge structures. We see galaxies forming filaments through space,3 we see walls of galaxies, we see really empty regions with very few galaxies in them, and we see giant clusters where there are tons of galaxies.4 What we’re studying is what can we learn about the history of our universe by looking at the structures we see today.5”—As told to Roisin McGinn

1 Like the ones from your last acid trip. 2 It’s that whole “can’t see the forest for the trees” thing. When you’re in the thick of something, it doesn’t appear ordered. Only when you zoom out can you identify patterns. 3 Picture a cobweb collecting dust. The dust is like matter forming in space and the web is the bridge, or “filament,” connecting it all together. 4 Think high-school prom: The cool kids cluster in one area, and the fatties stand by themselves. 5 Whoa.