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April 20, 2010
Kevin Coburn, Director of Communications

Princeton Scientist to Speak on New Views of the Universe at GMC
POULTNEY--Paul J. Steinhardt, Albert Einstein Professor in Science and Director of the Princeton Center for Theoretical Physics, will present his lecture “How Did the Universe Begin (Or Did It)?” on May 3rd at 6:30 p.m. in Ackley Hall at Green Mountain College. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Steinhardt is co-author of Endless Universe, a 2007 book that challenges basic assumptions about the nature of the universe and provides an alternative model to the “big-bang theory.” The presentation is free and open to the public.

Alan Marwine, professor of psychology at the College, wrote a letter to Steinhardt inviting him to address students in his Dimensions of Nature class. The course, required of all sophomores, focuses on the development of scientific thought as a way of understanding the structure and character of the natural world. An original article by Steinhardt and Turok has been on the course reading list for the past seven years.

“In 2003, a student in my class approached me with a paper from Science titled ‘A Cyclic Model of the Universe,’” Marwine said. “After reading it many times, listening to my student’s presentation, and working with her on her final paper, I decided that ‘A Cyclic Model of the Universe’ simply had to be included in our course anthology.”

Students in the Dimensions class have also been reading Endless Universe, co-authored with Neil Turok of Cambridge University. The book describes a universe that undergoes an endlessly repeating sequence of cosmic epochs without a single beginning as the big-bang model proposes. According to the authors, this new model solves several problems posed by the standard big bang theory, such as the initial period of rapid inflation, and the presence of dark matter and dark energy.

Marwine says that while Dimensions of Nature is certainly not a course about astrophysics, ideas from contemporary thinkers like Steinhardt build on students’ readings of philosophers and scientists including Aristotle, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileo and Newton. “We’re looking forward to having a world-class cosmologist discussing ideas that have been the objects of human curiosity for millenia,” Marwine said. “I know we’ll have lots of good questions.”

Steinhardt received the P.A.M. Dirac Medal from the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in 2002 for his contribution to the development of the concept of inflation in cosmology; and he won the Oliver E. Buckley Prize of the American Physical Society in 2010 for his contributions to the theory of quasicrystals. He has written over 200 papers, has edited four books, and holds three U.S. patents.


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