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Beauty in the Accelerating Universe: A Free Public Presentation on 27 March 2003

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A free presentation titled "Beauty in the Accelerating Universe" will be given at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, 27 March, in 100 Thomas Building on the Penn State University Park campus by Mario Livio, the Head of the Science Division of the Space Telescope Science Institute, which conducts the scientific program of the Hubble Space Telescope. This event is part of the 2002-2003 Friedman Public Lecture Series in Astronomy.

In his talk, Livio will describe the revolutionary new finding in astronomy that not only is the universe expanding, but it is expanding at an ever faster rate. "This means that more and more empty space comes into existence in between the billions of galactic cities of stars that populate our universe," explains Jane Charlton, associate professor and chair of outreach in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. "Dr. Livio has a great talent for explaining these mind-boggling concepts about the very nature of the universe," she says.

Livio, whose lecture will explore both philosophical and scientific issues, says "The discovery of accelerated expansion challenges the centuries-old belief that the fundamental theory of the universe must be 'beautiful.' He questions, "Is there still room for a 'Cosmological Aesthetic Principle' in what appears now to be a hopelessly complex universe?"

During the past five years, Livio's research has focused on supernova explosions and their use in cosmology to determine the rate of expansion of the universe. He has published over 300 scientific papers and has received numerous awards for research and for excellence in teaching. His interests span a broad range of topics in astrophysics, from cosmology to the emergence of intelligent life. He has done much fundamental work on the topic of accretion of mass onto black holes, neutron stars, and white dwarfs, as well as on the formation of black holes and the possibility of extracting energy from them.

A prolific science communicator whose interests include art as well as science, Livio has combined these dual passions in two popular books published in 2002: "The Accelerating Universe," and "The Golden Ratio," which discusses the amazing appearances of the peculiar number 1.618... in nature, the arts, and psychology. He recently has given public lectures at such locations as the Hayden Planetarium in New York, the Library of Congress, the Johnson Space Center in Houston, the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, the Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco, and the Institute of Astrophysics in Munich Germany.

The presentation is hosted by the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and is funded largely by the Ronald M. and Susan J. Friedman Outreach Fund in Astronomy. Friedman is a member of the department's Board of Visitors. A booksigning event and public reception will follow the talk.

[ J C / B K K ]

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

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