Sept. 29, 1994
Vol. 14, No. 3

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    Compton Lectures series: 'Great Mistakes in Science'

    From cold-fusion fiasco to how Einstein goofed Some of the most notorious scientific missteps of the modern age will be explored in "Great Mistakes in Science: The Difficulties of Experimental Physics," a series of free, public lectures presented on Saturday mornings from Oct. 1 through Dec. 10. All lectures in the series will begin at 11 a.m. in Kersten 115.

    The lectures will be presented by Aaron Roodman, Research Scientist in the Enrico Fermi Institute. Roodman believes that looking at mistakes and how they were made is a good way to learn how science really works.

    "There's a common misperception about how science works: a scientist sets up an experiment, adjusts some dials, reads the data, and it's done. Science is almost never that easy. These lectures will show how difficult it really is to do experimental science -- and how even good people can get tripped up," Roodman said.

    The lectures will cover a range of topics, from the well-known cold-fusion fiasco to lesser-known mistakes, such as how Nobel laureate Leon Lederman discovered the same fundamental particle twice and how Albert Einstein once goofed by a factor of two.

    A practicing experimental physicist, Roodman has been on staff at the Fermi Institute since receiving his Ph.D. from the University in 1991.

    The talks are part of the Arthur Holly Compton Lectures, a series that is now in its 20th year and is sponsored each fall and spring by the Enrico Fermi Institute. Arthur Holly Compton was a University physicist and a Nobel laureate who was best known for demonstrating that light has the characteristics of both a wave and a particle. He was also a member of the research team that in 1942 produced the world's first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear reaction.

    The lectures are intended to make science accessible to a general audience and to convey the excitement of new discoveries in the physical sciences. Topics have ranged from the smallest fundamental particles of matter to the history of the universe.

    The lectures in this series are "A Model Experiment," Oct. 1; "The Science of Things That Aren't So," Oct. 8; "Cold-Fusion Fiasco," Oct. 15; "Einstein's Factor of 2," Oct. 22; "Millikan and the Cosmic Rays," Oct. 29; "Gravity Waves," Nov. 5; "The Fifth Force," Nov. 12; "The Oops-Leon," Nov. 19; "A Lighter Top Quark," Dec. 3; and "The Neutrino From Hell," Dec. 10. No lecture is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 26.

    For more information, call 702-7823.