October 8, 2001 (19)

Freeman Dyson to give annual Ta-You Wu physics lecture

ANN ARBOR---Freeman J. Dyson will give the University of Michigan Department of Physics 2001 Ta-You Wu Lecture on Oct. 17, at 4 p.m. in the U-M Business School's Hale Auditorium. His lecture, "Is Life Analog or Digital?" is recommended for a general audience. It will be preceded by a reception, also at Hale Auditorium, at 3:30 p.m.

Dyson is professor emeritus of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, N.J. He is widely known in fields as diverse as physics, biology, astronomy and mathematics. "His originality, rigor and relevance have set a high standard of excellence for fundamental contributions to science at the frontiers of knowledge," according to the department. "He is known for his erudition and his rigorous analytical skills, combined with a 'science fiction' imagination and an artist's eye for elegance and craftsmanship in his solutions."

About his topic, Dyson says: "I started thinking about the abstract definition of life 20 years ago, and proved to my own satisfaction that survival is possible for a community of living creatures using only a finite store of matter and energy. Then two years ago, friends at Case Western Reserve University sent me a paper saying that everything I claimed in my paper was wrong. I was happy to read it—it is much more fun to be contradicted than to be ignored. Now after two years of friendly argument, it appears that we are both right. They are right that life cannot survive forever if it is digital, but I am right, and life may survive forever, if life is analog. It seems to me now, that the question of whether life is digital or analog is more interesting, and perhaps more important, than the question of survival out of which it arose."

The annual Ta-You Wu lecture, one of the most prestigious lecture events in physics, was endowed in 1991 through generous gifts from the U-M Alumni Association in Taiwan. It serves as a permanent tribute to Ta-You Wu, Michigan physics alumnus and honorary doctor of science degree recipient (1991), and one of the central figures of the 20th century Chinese and Taiwanese physics communities. Past Ta-You Wu lecturers have included Nobel Prize winners C.N. Yang (1992), Joseph H. Taylor (1994), T.D. Lee (1995), Pierre-Gilles de Gennes (1996), Steven Chu (1999) and Horst Störmer (2000).

Dyson will present the Special Physics Colloquium on Oct. 18, at 4 p.m. in 340 West Hall. The title of his talk is "Gravity is Cool, or Why Our Universe is Hospitable to Life."

Both lectures are free and open to the public. For more information, call the Department of Physics at (734) 764-4437.

Contact: Judy Steeh
Phone: (734) 647-3099
E-mail: jsteeh@umich.edu