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"Was There a Big Bang?," a Free Public Lecture Scheduled for 12 November

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A free public lecture titled "Was There a Big Bang?" will be given at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, 12 November, in 101 Thomas Building on the Penn State University Park Campus by Michael Weinstein, of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Weinstein's talk is the second of the 2000-2001 Friedman public lecture series on "Origins in Astronomy." Weinstein will discuss the question of how the whole universe came to be, which has been described as a fundamental question in the quest to understand the nature of human life.

Most astronomers currently believe that the universe is expanding, and that billions of years ago the universe was a cosmic fireball--much hotter and denser than it is now. How did they arrive at such an incredible claim? How can they say anything definitive about events that supposedly happened so long ago? In the lecture, Weinstein will examine the evidence for the Big Bang theory. Along the way, he will also answer such questions as: How can the distances to galaxies be measured? If the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into? Where is the center of this universal explosion? How do astronomers calculate the age of the universe, and why is this calculation so uncertain? Was there a Big Bang?

The purpose of this talk is for members of the general public to hear the evidence, understand the methods by which astronomers arrive at their conclusions, and then decide for themselves. There will be ample opportunity for discussion after the talk with Weinstein and other members of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Michael Weinstein is a graduate student in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics who aspires to a career in the teaching of astronomy and in outreach to the public. He presently organizes planetarium shows, astronomy activities for children of all ages, and stargazing events that reach 2000 to 3000 people each year. Weinstein is know for his flamboyant and enthusiastic lecturing style and for his exceptionally clear illustrations and explanations.

The "Origins in Astronomy" series is hosted by the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and largely funded by the Ronald M. and Susan J. Friedman Outreach Fund in Astronomy. Mr. Friedman is a member of the Department's Board of Visitors.

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CONTACT: Jane Charlton, associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics, 863-6040 or 865-0418

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