|Astronomer Alex Filippenko to give 2002 Phi Beta Kappa Lecture
RELEASED: May 2, 2002
DANVILLE, KY-Alex Filippenko, professor of astronomy at the University of California-Berkeley, will give this year's Phi Beta Kappa Lecture at Centre College on May 6. This free public lecture will take place at 8 p.m. in Weisiger Theatre and is entitled "Einstein's Biggest Blunder? The Case for Cosmic 'Antigravity.' "
Albert Einstein believed that the universe was static, neither expanding nor contracting. Since the gravitational pull of all matter would eventually force the universe to collapse on itself, Einstein concluded that a mysterious energy existed that counteracted gravity, a kind of "antigravity."
Later Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe was not static, but instead was expanding. This discovery forced Einstein to discard his theory, referring to it as the "biggest blunder" of his career.
Since Hubble's discovery, scientists have believed that the expansion of the universe would ultimately be slowed by gravity, but they didn't have the resources to measure the rate.
After observing a certain type of exploding star (supernova), Filippenko and his colleagues discovered that the expansion of the universe is not slowing down because of gravity, but that the expansion of the universe is actually speeding up with time. The simplest explanation for this surprising find might be Einstein's old "antigravity" theory. In 1998 "Science" magazine named this finding the "Science Breakthrough of the Year."
Filippenko will also give a talk that day entitled "Supernovae-Exploding Stars" that will be presented at 4 p.m. in Olin Hall, room 124.
Filippenko is professor of astronomy at Berkeley, where he has taught since 1986, and the recipient of four distinguished teaching awards. His primary areas of research are exploding stars, active galaxies, black holes and the expansion of the universe. He has been in the forefront of efforts to develop robotic telescopes for CCD imaging.
Filippenko's visit to Centre College is sponsored by the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program. Each year, the program makes approximately 12 distinguished scholars available to visit nearly 100 colleges and universities. The scholars spend two days on campus, meeting informally with students and faculty members, taking part in classroom discussions and giving a public lecture on campus.
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