July 14, 2005
Vol. 24 No. 19

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    ‘Einstein’s Revolutions’ honors scientist’s legacy

    By Steve Koppes
    News Office

    Three University scientists will discuss the theory of everything, the arrow of time, the subatomic world and other topics related to the work of Albert Einstein in a series of free lectures sponsored by the Illinois Humanities Council over the next three months.

    The lecture series, titled “Einstein’s Revolutions,” began in June and commemorates the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s miracle year, 1905, when, while working as a patent clerk in Switzerland, he published a set of papers describing ideas that have influenced all of modern physics.

    Edward “Rocky” Kolb, Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics, presented on Monday, July 11, “Einstein’s Cosmic Legacy.” Kolb also is director of the Particle Astrophysics Center at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and author of Blind Watchers of the Sky: The People and Ideas that Shaped Our Views of the Universe.

    Janna Levin, assistant professor of physics at Barnard College of Columbia University, also spoke Monday, July 11. Levin is the author of How the Universe Got Its Spots: Diary of a Finite Time in a Finite Space.

    The event was held Monday, July 11, in the Pritzker Auditorium of the Harold Washington Library.

    Kolb and Levin discussed new mysteries that scientists may be able to unlock, which go beyond Einstein’s discoveries. Although Einstein’s relativity theory ranks among humanity’s greatest achievements, it cannot answer several profound questions that are central to cosmology. What is the power source of the big bang? What is the mysterious dark energy pulling apart the universe? Is the universe finite? The discovery of a finite universe that contains extra dimensions would go beyond Einstein and possibly lead to the long-sought theory of everything, connecting the inner space of the atom to the outer space of the cosmos.

    Sean Carroll, Assistant Professor in Physics, will speak on Thursday, Aug. 11, when he presents “Time’s Arrow.” His lecture will begin at 6 p.m. at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave.

    The Thursday, Aug. 11 event will highlight how Einstein’s theories of relativity revolutionized the modern understanding of time. In Einstein’s universe, time passes at different speeds relative to the position and velocity of the observer. Experiments have dramatically confirmed Einstein’s ideas, but puzzles still remain.

    Carroll will discuss science’s current understanding of time and how research might alter that understanding in the future. Presenting a philosophical and artistic understanding of time will be David Albert, professor of philosophy at Columbia University, and visual artist Antonia Contro.

    Joe Lykken, Professor in Physics and a theoretical particle physicist at Fermilab, will present “Einstein’s Hidden Worlds” at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, in the Claudia Cassidy Theatre of the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph St.

    In 1905, Einstein showed that the world is profoundly shaped by a subatomic world ruled by quantum physics, a system with properties so bizarre that Einstein later found it difficult to accept. Yet these principles are now responsible for modern electronics, computers, lasers and medical imaging.

    Later, Einstein proposed another new world where space and time are twisted and warped by matter and energy, a world that might also contain hidden dimensions and links to parallel universes. Lykken will describe how scientists today use particle accelerators and sophisticated space observatories to reveal a reality even stranger than Einstein’s vision.

    The two upcoming events are free, but registration is required. For more information, visit http://www.prairie.org/Einstein, contact the Illinois Humanities Council at (312) 422-5580, or e-mail ihc@prairie.org.