photo services
news staff
Marketing & Design
Tips for faculty
Social Networks
PHONE: (734)764-7260
FAX: (734) 764-7084

Feb. 6, 2004

Saturday Morning Physics announces spring schedule

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Saturday Morning Physics, the University of Michigan series of multimedia science lectures for general audiences, opens its spring season on Feb. 14.

Every week for seven weeks, more than 300 people, from middle school students to retirees, will give up part of their weekend to listen to U-M scientists describe their cutting edge research in easy-to-understand, non-technical terms. Each talk is illustrated with multimedia technology and live demonstrations.

The lectures will be held Saturdays, 10:30-11:30 a.m., in 170 Dennison Building, 501 East University, on the U-M's Central Campus. The lectures are free and open to the public. Coffee and refreshments will be served. High school students are especially encouraged to attend, but those of all ages are welcome.

The series is sponsored by the Department of Physics and donations from the public.

Talks scheduled for the spring series are:

–Feb. 14: "Magnificent Mars!" Ken Croswell, astronomer and author. The planet Mars has long offered the prospect of another living world in the solar system. With an armada of spacecraft scrutinizing the red planet as never before, Croswell will present the best color images of Mars and describe the planet from pole to pole, exploring Martian geology, the Martian atmosphere, Martian volcanoes, and Martian water, all organized around the four great elements of Mars: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. He will introduce volcanoes over twice as tall as Mount Everest, canyons that could stretch from Ohio to California, and floods of water far greater than any known on Earth. Billions of years ago, on a world warmer and wetter, Mars may have given rise to life whose fossils await discovery today.

–March 6: "Electric Ideas," Myron Campbell, professor, U-M Physics Department.

The effects of static electricity have been known for more than 2,000 years, but a careful cataloging of the effects and theoretical understanding did not occur until the nineteenth century. The first lecture will begin with the basic ideas of electricity and describe Faraday's unification of electricities. Campbell will then develop the ideas of voltage, current and electric field. He will demonstrate the effects and concepts using a combination of antique equipment similar to what was used in the nineteenth century and modern equipment, such as Tesla coils.

–March 13: "Electromagnetic Mysteries—Explained," Myron Campbell, professor, U-M Physics Department.

Naturally occurring magnets, lodestones, were used in antiquity to aid navigation by indicating direction. While it may not seem obvious that the magnets used to hold our shopping lists on the refrigerator door are related to the static electricity shocks that we get on cold winter days, an ingenious set of experiments performed in the nineteenth century showed that they were deeply connected. These experiments lead to the successful unification of electricity and magnetism by James Clerk Maxwell in 1873. Campbell will explain and demonstrate the effects of magnets, and the interconnection between electricity and magnetism.

–March 20: "Novel Insights & Inventions," Myron Campbell, professor, U-M Physics Department.

The unification of electricity and magnetism brought with it two surprises. The first was the prediction of electromagnetic waves, which lead to both new understandings and new inventions. The second was the theory of special relativity, although it would be another 25 years before this was understood. Campbell will demonstrate the properties of electromagnetic waves with a model of Hertz's generator as well as modern equipment. He will also demonstrate the wave nature of light. He will explain one of the effects of special relative time dilation by using light. Finally, he will show us how the historical development of the theory of electricity and magnetism has parallels to our current efforts to unify gravity and quantum mechanics.

–March 27: "Black Holes in String Theory," Leopoldo Pando Zayas, professor, U-M Physics Department.

String theory is a modern attempt at unifying two of the pillars of twentieth century physics—quantum field theory and general relativity. These two theories have been experimentally tested and make robust predictions. They are, however, inconsistent with each other. Black holes are classical solutions of general relativity that have challenged our quantum intuition for more than thirty years. Pando Zayas will describe how string theory unifies field theory and general relativity. This may solve some of the long-standing puzzles related to black holes.

–April 3: "Dark Energy and Our Runaway Universe," Gregory Tarlé, professor, U-M Physics Department.

Edwin Hubble discovered in the 1930's that our universe is dynamic, expanding away from a birth about 14 billion years ago. Ever since, scientists have wondered about its destiny. Would the expansion slow to a halt and then collapse or would the expansion continue forever, slowed weakly by the gravity of the matter within? Now it appears that a mysterious dark energy has taken over the universe and is accelerating its expansion, driving distant galaxies out of our observable universe. Tarl é will explore the experimental evidence for the existence of this dark energy and examine some of the possible explanations of its nature.

–April 17: "Shedding Light on Dark Energy: An Experimental Perspective," Gregory Tarlé , professor, U-M Physics Department.

Recent experiments show that our universe is expanding at an ever-increasing rate, driven by a mysterious dark energy. To determine what dark energy is as opposed to that it is present will require a new generation of experiments of unprecedented precision. Scientists from around the globe are now planning for a SuperNova/Acceleration Probe (SNAP), a new type of space telescope that will observe thousands of supernova explosions to determine the nature of the dark energy. Tarl é will explore how scientists go about designing a precision cosmological experiment such as SNAP and examine its prospects for uncovering the true identity of the major component of our universe.

Selected telecasts of past lectures will be available on U-M educational access TV (UMTV) and Comcast cable channel 22 in the Ann Arbor area. The schedule is on the UMTV Web site. Select past lectures also continue to be telecast on the city of Ann Arbor Community Television Network's (CTN) CitiTV cable channel 19.

For more information visit the Saturday Morning Physics Web site,

Contact: Carol Rabuck
Phone: (734) 763-2588