March 14, 2006 -- Some of the world's arguably greatest minds are gathering on St. Thomas to "confront gravity" over the next week, and the community will be able to access their brainpower during at least one public event.
Among the 22 physicists who will be meeting during a three-day workshop over such things as gravitational waves, black holes, quantum mechanics and the nature of the universe will be renowned theoretical physicists Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss, the event's coordinator.
Hawking is the author of the best-selling and notably accessible tome on physics, "A Brief History of Time," and Krauss is recognized in the larger world of nonscientists for his popular books on physics, "The Physics of Star Trek" and "Hiding in the Mirror: The Mysterious Allure of Extra Dimensions, from Plato to String Theory and Beyond."
Also in attendance at the weekend-long event, which is not open to the public, are three Nobel Prize-winning physicists: Gerard t Hooft, David Gross, and Frank Wilczek.
The event is sponsored by the J. Epstein Virgin Islands Foundation and the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University, where Krauss is the Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics and chairman of the Physics Department.
In explaining the purpose of the gathering, called "Confronting Gravity: A Workshop to Explore Fundamental Questions in Physics and Cosmology," Krauss said, "The effort to understand the nature of gravity
has played a central role in much of modern physics. For example, gravitational waves could unveil the physical processes associated with the creation of our present universe and also the nature of the ultimate collapse of matter into black holes. The question of precisely how empty space may gravitate will not only help elucidate how general relativity might be reconciled with quantum mechanics, but it might help us understand the ultimate future of our universe, and life within it. The effort to reconcile quantum mechanics with gravity, perhaps the last great unsolved puzzle of 20th-century particle physics has led, over the past 30 years, to a remarkable theoretical set of constructions. If the ideas of String Theory are correct, there may be a host of new dimensions, and even whole new universes, lying right beyond our reach."
For the less physics-immersed, Krauss will be giving a talk entitled "Einstein's Blunder" at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the University of the Virgin Islands' Chase Auditorium. The lecture, which is open to the public, will be teleconferenced to the Evans Center, Room 713 on St. Croix. It is part of the university's Charter Week activities.
On Monday the three Nobel laureates, t Hooft, Gross and Wilczek, will speak to high school students at an event to be held at Antilles School.
Students from Ivanna Eudora Kean and Charlotte Amalie high schools and Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School have already responded to the invitation issued from the Epstein Foundation. The event is open to any 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders wishing to attend. It is not open to the general public.
Cecile deJongh, director of the Epstein Foundation, said Tuesday, "Jeffery Epstein believes in education and since this is his home it was important for the people of the Virgin Islands to be able to participate in the experience of having Nobel Prize winners in the Virgin Islands."
Epstein has always been interested in the education of children and having education be accessible to everyone, de Jongh said. "Although the conference is a private gathering of minds, Jeffrey was interested also in doing public outreach, especially to the schools."
Krauss is no stranger to outreach. In the past seven months he has given more than three dozen lectures at schools and universities across the globe from Tokyo, Japan to Singapore to Canada and the United States, according to a Case Western Web site.
According to the site, "Krauss is also one of the few prominent scientists today to have actively crossed the chasm between science and popular culture." Besides his radio and television work, Krauss has performed solo with the Cleveland Orchestra, narrating Gustav Holst's "The Planets" at the Blossom Music Center in the most highly attended concert at that venue, and was nominated for a Grammy award for his liner notes for a Telarc CD of music from Star Trek.
In 2005 he also served as a jury member at the Sundance Film Festival. DeJongh called him the "rock star" of physics.
Hawking will not be attending any of the public events and will speak at only one of the workshops.
All of the events are being underwritten by the J. Epstein Foundation.
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