Thursday, April 18, 2013

UNO Hosts Einstein Week

Einstein Week takes root today at the University of New Orleans, a three-day celebration of science that begins and ends with a big bang.

Three key events are planned this week to get the UNO community interested in the magic of science, said Isaac Meisenheimer, president of the University chapter of the Society of Physics Students. SPS is hosting the three-day event with help from physics department faculty and other members of the College of Sciences.

Experiments and Explosions

Today at 12:30 p.m. UNO physics students and faculty will conduct live physics demonstrations on the quadrangle outside the University's Earl K. Long Library. Experiments will demonstrate physics concepts ranging from gravity to angular momentum, Meisenheimer said.

"We're also doing a test of pressure with liquid nitrogen," said Meisenheimer. "We're going to...launch 1,500 ping-pong balls into the air...It makes a really big boom...It's loud!"

The event was planned and tested Wednesday in coordination with campus police. In light of this week's bombings at the Boston Marathon, the UNO Public Relations Department sent out a campus advisory alerting the community to the expected loud noise.

Scientific Literacy

The second event is an evening panel discussion on "The Importance of Scientific Literacy in The Modern World," slated to start at 7 p.m. in Kirschman Hall, Room 137. Three professors from the physics, earth and environmental sciences and biology departments will speak. Greg Seab, Kraig Durstler and J. Larry Dew will address "why it's important to understand many of the basic concepts that go along with science," said Meisenheimer.

"For example if you didn't understand evolution, then you would be very limited to the type of [scientific] fields that you could go into [as a career]," the physics major said, elaborating on the study and work of scientists. "We don't just pull theories out of the air. Everything is based on observation on empirical evidence that we can measure. If our ideas don't match what we observe, then we have to go back and change our ideas."

An Evening with Lawrence Krauss, World-Renowned Scientist

For a grand finale, SPS, Student Government and the physics department, which has 30 undergraduate majors, hosts guest lecturer Lawrence Krauss, "who is right now one of the most famous cosmologists or astrophysicist on the planet," said Meisenheimer. "One of the reasons we wanted to bring him to campus is he has a new book on the origins of the universe and he has a knack for explaining extremely difficult concepts in extremely simple ways that everyone can understand."

"An Evening with Lawrence Krauss: A Universe from Nothing" starts at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 20 in the University Center Grand Ballroom. Members of the UNO community and the public are invited to attend this free lecture. Doors open at 6 p.m. for students and faculty with ID and at 6:30 p.m. for the general public. Seating is limited and guests are encouraged to arrive early.

The event will include a book signing and question and answer period following Krauss's talk, said Meisenheimer. SPS will raffle off a Celestron 127 EQ PowerSeeker Newtonian telescope signed by Krauss.

Krauss, who has published more than 300 papers, is the only living physicist to receive awards from all three physics societies and recently received National Science Board's Public Service Medal for Science Education. He is the subject of an upcoming documentary entitled "The Unbelievers" which records Krauss and his friend, renowned evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, travelling around the world trying to publicize scientific education.

At UNO, Krauss is slated to speak about ideas presented in his book, A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing, which made the New York Times best seller list upon its release in January.

Learn more about the UNO Physics Department >>
Learn more about Saturday's lecture starring cosmologist and science educator Lawrence Krauss >>
See what to expect with today's nitrogen pressure experiment that will launch 1,500 ping-pong balls on to the UNO Library lawn >>