Sept. 23, 1999
Vol. 19 No. 1

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    Compton series will focus on black holes

    By Steve Koppes
    News Office

    Finn Larsen, a Robert McCormick Fellow at the University’s Enrico Fermi Institute, will discuss how black holes have provided one of the finest triumphs of string theory, when he delivers the 50th Arthur Holly Compton Lectures beginning Saturday, Oct. 2.

    A promising theory that emerged in recent years, string theory could unify the two main pillars of 20th-century physics into one “theory of everything.”

    “Black Holes, Quantum Mechanics and String Theory,” a series of 10 lectures, will be presented at 11 a.m. Saturday mornings through Dec. 11 in Room 106 of the Kersten Physics Teaching Center, 5720 S. Ellis Ave. There will be no lecture Saturday, Nov. 27, after Thanksgiving.

    In his lecture series, Larsen will explore various theoretical descriptions of black holes and how their modern understanding begins with Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. He will further detail how the wonders and enigmas posed by black holes appear in their full glory when scientists also attempt to understand quantum mechanics, the other main pillar of 20th-century physics.

    Larsen received his doctoral degree in physics from Princeton University in 1996. He also holds a B.A. in physics and mathematics and an M.A. in physics from Denmark’s Aarhus University.

    The Enrico Fermi Institute sponsors the Compton Lectures each fall and spring. Compton was a Chicago physicist and Nobel laureate, best known for demonstrating that light has the characteristics of both a wave and a particle. He also organized the effort to produce plutonium for the atomic bomb and directed the Metallurgical Laboratory at Chicago, where Fermi and his colleagues produced the first controlled nuclear chain reaction in 1942.

    The lectures are intended to make science accessible to a general audience and to convey the excitement of new discoveries in the physical sciences. Previous topics have ranged from the smallest fundamental particles to the history of the universe. All of the lectures are free and open to the public. For more information, call (773) 702-7823.