Chasing Einstein: The Dark Universe Event

March 2, 2020


March 2, 2020


Center Hall 119 (map)

UC San Diego

Free and open to the public; RSVP here


Including a screening of the feature documentary CHASING EINSTEIN followed by a panel discussion and Q & A with:

  • Professor, and Founder of the XENON Dark Matter Project, Elena Aprile
  • Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor of Physics Brian Keating
  • Dr. Kaixuan Ni, Ph.D, Ni Group at UC San Diego. Dr. Ni leads the development of liquid xenon detectors for the search of dark matter.
  • Patrick de Perio, postdoctoral research scientist, Columbia Univerity
  • Steve Brown, producer, Chasing Einstein


Could Einstein have been wrong about the true nature of gravity? Does his general theory of relativity and the Standard Model need an update? Unprecedented advances in experimental particle physics, astronomy and cosmology are uncovering mysteries of cosmic consequence. Among the most challenging is the realization that 80% of the universe consists of something unknown that exerts galactic forces pulling the universe apart. The search for Dark Matter extends from the worlds most powerful particle accelerators to the most sensitive telescopes, to deep under the earth. Nobel worthy discoveries await. Scientists at UC San Diego are at the epicenter of the search for Dark Matter leading efforts to build the next generation of instruments and experiments to uncover its secrets.

Elena Aprile is UCSD’s Margaret Burbidge Visiting Professor at UC San Diego and Professor of Physics at Columbia University. She is the founder and spokesperson of the XENON Dark Matter Experiment. Aprile is well known for her work with noble liquid detectors and for her contributions to particle astrophysics in the search for dark matter.

Kaixuan Ni is an Associate Professor of Physics at UCSD. He has spent the past two decades developing sensitive detectors to search for dark matter at deep underground labs in Italy and China. He initially joined the development of the first generation dark matter experiment based on liquid xenon, and later co-founded the PandaX dark matter project in China. He is currently leading the UCSD group for the XENON project, which sets the world record of dark matter limits. He is also pushing the development of the ultimate dark matter search experiment DARWIN. 

Brian Keating is a Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor of physics at the Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences (CASS) in the Department of Physics at the University of California, San Diego. He is a public speaker, inventor, and an expert in the study of the universe’s oldest light, the cosmic microwave background (CMB), using it to learn about the origin and evolution of the universe. Keating is a pioneer in the search for the earliest physical evidence of the inflationary epoch, the theorized period of expansion of space in the early universe directly after the Big Bang. Physicists predict that this evidence will reveal itself as a particular pattern in the way CMB light is polarized; this pattern is referred to as a B-mode pattern.

Steve Brown is an entrepreneurial producer and director known for making documentary features about arts, innovation and culture. Most recently, he directed and produced CHASING EINSTEIN, premiering at CPH:DOX festival in March 2019. He produced the award-winning documentary features POACHED and TWINSTERS, both of which premiered at SXSW 2015, and OCCUPY THE FARM, released in 2014. His directorial debut, SPARK: A BURNING MAN STORY premiered at SXSW 2013. Steve has released six documentary features theatrically and has secured distribution on Showtime, Netflix, Disney/ABC, Amazon, and other networks worldwide.

Dark Matter

The existence of Dark Matter was first proposed by Fritz Zwicky in 1933 who observed that galaxies in the Coma Cluster were moving quicker than could be accounted for using the conventional understanding of gravity. They exhibited a gravitational mass 400 times greater than expected. He termed the missing mass dunkle materie or dark matter.  In the early 70s astronomer Vera Rubin observed that the rotation rates of spiral galaxies were too fast for their gravitational mass, adding to the mystery. None of the known particles or cosmological phenomenon, such as gravitational lensing, have explained these discrepancies. Could it be that gravity behaves differently at cosmic scales? Measurements being made using gravitational lensing of colliding galaxies, ultra-diffuse galaxies, and the cosmic microwave background fluctuation, have provided more evidence that dark matter exists. While ground and space based telescopes observe at cosmic scales, terrestrial experiments seek to find elusive dark matter particles using extremely sensitive underground detectors such as the Xenon Dark Matter Project founded by Professor Elena April.

The Xenon Dark Matter Project

Located at Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy, is a dark matter search experiment using tonnes of liquid xenon to search for dark matter particles. More than 150 physicists from 26 institutions around the world are currently working on the experiment. XENON1T is the world’s largest dark matter detector, continuously taking dark matter search data until the end of 2018. XENONnT is an upgrade of XENON1T, by increasing the target mass from 2 to 6 tonnes. The UCSD group is working on the calibration, data analysis and simulation for the experiment, and developing hardware components for XENONnT.

The Margaret Burbidge Visiting Professor at UC San Diego

The Margaret Burbidge 100th Birthday Tribute


We recommend parking at the Gilman Parking Structure (map):

From Interstate 5:

  • Exit La Jolla Village drive.
  • If northbound, turn LEFT at off-ramp. If southbound, turn RIGHT.
  • At the first stop light turn right onto Villa La Jolla drive and go up the hill (staying in the left lane).
  • You will pass the VA Medical Center on the right.
  • At the second stop light, drive straight ahead into the Gilman parking structure.
  • Purchase a parking permit from machine. ($1.00/hour and takes credit cards).

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