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Nobel Laureate to give New Zealand lectures

Monday, January 7, 2008

Nobel Laureate to give New Zealand lectures

Physicist, author, ghost-buster and 2004 Nobel prizewinner Frank Wilczek will explore the mysteries of the Universe at lectures in Palmerston North and Auckland next week.

In the lecture, titled The Universe is a Strange Place, Professor Wilczek will talk about the modern physics view of the universe and the matter within it. Using humour, and analogies with music and art, he explains some of the strange mysteries of this view of the universe, and attempts to predict what the consequences of today’s discoveries about the universe will be.

Professor Wilczek received the Nobel for work he did as a 21-year-old graduate student at Princeton. He is known for the discovery of asymptotic freedom, a discovery which is of decisive importance in understanding how the theory of one of nature's fundamental forces works, the force that ties together the smallest pieces of matter – the quarks

Massey University’s Professor Tony Signal says Professor Wilczek is known for his ability to communicate successfully with a wide range of audiences. “We are very delighted that in fact we could attract him to New Zealand, because Professor Wilczek is much in demand for public lectures worldwide.”

Professor Wilczek has been anthologised in the Norton Anthology of Light Verse and twice in Best American Science Writing (2003, 2005), has performed in Ig Nobel debates, the Ig Nobel road-show opera Atom and Eve (singing the role of Atom), and as a "ghost-buster" expert for television show Penn and Teller.

Longing for the Harmonies, an exposition of modern physics Professor Wilczek wrote with his wife Betsy Devine, was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Professor Wilczek is currently on sabbatical from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is the Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics. After spending the latter part of 2007 living in Stockholm, where he was visiting Professor of Physics at the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics, he will spend the first part of 2008 in Oxford, as a Visiting Fellow at All Souls.

“Appropriately enough, when he was a Professor at Princeton, Frank and his family lived in the same house that Albert Einstein had lived in during his 20 or so years at Princeton,” Professor Signal says.

Professor Wilczek’s visit is the fourth in the annual Sir Neil Waters Distinguished Lecture Series, hosted by the Massey University Foundation. The series was inaugurated in 2004 to honour the achievements of Sir Neil Waters, Massey Vice-Chancellor from 1983 to 1995.

The lecture series aims to bring the foremost scientists in maths, chemistry and physics to New Zealand to allow both academics and the public to hear first-hand of advances in the sciences. The sessions are open to the public and will be held at Palmerston North’s Te Manawa at 5.30pm on Tuesday January 15, and in the Sir Neil Waters auditorium at the University’s Auckland campus at 6pm on January 17.


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