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The 2015 Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science

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The Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science is a program of the Penn State Eberly College of Science that is designed for the enjoyment and education of residents of the Central Pennsylvania area and beyond.

Our 2015 Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science -- a free public minicourse -- is going to be among the first events worldwide to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Einstein's discovery of general relativity, a theory recognized as Einstein's greatest discovery.

All of the 2015 events will take place at 11:00 a.m. in the Thomas Building (map) on Penn State's University Park Campus.



Einstein's Greatest Discovery

John Norton, Professor of Physics, Director of the Center for Philosophy of Science, and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh

January 24, 11:00 a.m. 100 Thomas Building (map) 

Enjoy looking over Einstein's shoulder as John Norton takes you on a guided tour of the notes Einstein wrote in his logbook 100 years ago while he was making the greatest discovery of his career. Learn how Einstein's theory of general relativity is continuing to profoundly change the way we think about science, geometry, philosophy, and time travel.


Sculpting the Universe

David Weinberg, the Henry L. Cox Professor and Distinguished Professor of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Ohio State University

January 31, 11:00 a.m. 100 Thomas Building (map)

Einstein's theory of gravity paved the way for the modern understanding of cosmology known as the big bang theory. David Weinberg will present this theory through the unique lens of cosmological sculptures by the artist Josiah McElheny, which illustrate the nature of cosmic expansion, the formation and clustering of galaxies and quasars, the seeding of cosmic structure by primordial fluctuations in the early universe, and the possibility that our observable cosmos is only an "island" in a larger "multiverse."



The Warped Side of the Universe

Nergis Mavalvala, the Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

February 7, 11:00 a.m. 102 Thomas Building (map)  

Some of the most violent events in the universe cause spectacular warps in space-time that travel to us as gravitational waves. Gravitational waves were predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity over a century ago, but scientists have not yet detected them directly. Learn about how we search for these tiny space-time ripples and how we decode the information that only they carry about mysterious events in space as far back in time as the first moments after the Big Bang.


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Capturing the Birth Cries of Black Holes

John Nousek, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Director of Mission Operations for NASA's Swift satellite, Penn State

February 14, 11:00 a.m. 100 Thomas Building (map) 

Penn State controls the science and flight operations of the only satellite that can precisely locate gamma-ray bursts -- the birth cries of newborn black holes, the most-powerful explosions in the universe. These massive explosions were predicted by Einstein long before they could be detected by science instruments in space. Hear the director of mission operations for NASA's Swift observatory describe Penn State's role in this mission, which is recognized as one of the most versatile astrophysics satellites ever flown.


Using General Relativity to Discover Planets

Jason Wright, Assistant Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Penn State

February 21, 11:00 a.m. 100 Thomas Building (map)

Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts that light is affected by gravity much like matter is. The first observation that confirmed this theory turned Einstein into a household name almost overnight. Learn how astronomers use light rays bent into arcs, rings, and other beautiful and revealing patterns by the gravitational influence of galaxies, stars, and planets to measure mysterious dark matter and to discover Earth-mass planets orbiting other stars.



Pushing Science Beyond Einstein

Eugenio Bianchi, Assistant Professor of Physics, Penn State

February 28, 11:00 a.m. 100 Thomas Building (map)

What is the newest scientific understanding of conditions in the universe at the beginning of time and space? What new physics can we learn from the radiation emitted by the black hole at the center of our galaxy? How and why are space and time so inseparably entangled? Learn how scientists are trying to push beyond the boundaries of Einstein's general theory of relativity in order to solve the mysteries of the most fascinating phenomena in the universe.


Use the links to the left to access more information about the Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science, including archived recordings of previous lectures.

For more information or access assistance, contact the Eberly College of Science Office of Media Relations and Public Information by telephone at (814) 863-8453 or by e-mail at jms1140@psu.edu.

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