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Lecture 1: Black Holes are Neither Black nor Holes

Wednesday, February 16, 2011, 7PM-8PM
Galileo Hall on the Harvey Mudd College (campus map)

Abstract: In the 1920's, soon after Einstein proposed his new theory of gravity, theoretical physicists realized that this theory predicted the existence of esoteric astrophysical objects they called black holes. These are collapsed massive stars which warp time and space around them as much as they skew human imagination... Black holes push our understanding of the material world, of time, and of consciousness to its limits, driving physics into the realm of philosophy.  In the past few years, we have discovered billions and billions of black holes all around us, scattered across the universe. We now know that these violent, extraordinary entities play a key role in the evolution of the universe, and of life... To understand black holes we need to go beyond traditional physics towards crazy ideas of string theory, but also those of Ancient Greek philosophy. Looking at recent photos of black holes we will discuss  these strange entities and their philosophical significance.

Lecture Series Poster

Here's the poster for the Schrödingersdog lecture series:

And here's a high quality PDF version.


My Plans For World Domination...

I launched this site less than a week ago as part of a larger project I've been thinking about for several years. The basic motivation was to tell an audience of undergraduate students and the general public about some of the most amazing discoveries of modern physics. Within a couple of days, the site had served over 700 pages! The feedback and praise has been very gratifying. From talking to people about the site, it became apparent to me that I need to add a separate section/feed to keep those interested in the future plans of this project updated. So, this is my first post in this theme.

In the near future, Schrödinger's Dog is to also serve as the backend of an iPhone and iPad application with a unique interface for navigating the landscape of modern physics. Sexy graphics and an elegant organizational framework will hopefully give non-physicists a glimpse of how physicists think and explore Nature with a bird's eye view of things. The apps will be entirely free, and free of ads. I've started developing both apps and expect to release them within about 1-2 months. I'll post updates/screenshots about the progress in this feed.

Starting January 2011, I'll be giving a series of public lectures at the Claremont Colleges about some of the very topics covered in this blog. A test run was done a few weeks ago and was very encouraging. The plan is to record the future lectures and post the videos to this feed as complementary material to the main feed.

Schrödinger's Dog is to also become the basis of a popular science book I intend to write and release within a year with a co-author colleague. Too early to say more about it at this point.

Over time, as I build on more background content in the main feed, I will start adding material with more "meat" to it: some equations may start making appearances... perhaps a few calculations when I become desperate. But all these are to be tagged as Senior. And they will be cross-linked to background material to make them accessible. But don't expect these within the next 3-4 months. It is also likely that other colleagues of mine will join the blog with their contributions.

Physics is a subject that taps into a deep passion in the human nature. Physics is about understanding something for the sake of understanding it. A physicist is interested in asking questions from the most practical and simple ones to the most fundamental and philosophical - simply because knowing the answer gives one a sense of deep gratification and enlightenment. And Physics is at its core an experimental science: it is about poking and tweaking Nature until It gives up Its secrets... Applications of physics are certainly welcome and encouraged, but they are not the only goal. It is all about unraveling the laws of Nature: in Einstein's own words,"I want to know God's thoughts. The rest are details." Physics is an endeavor driven by pure idealism, the belief that we ought and deserve to understand how Nature ticks; and if we do, perhaps everything else will fall into its right places. These are the reasons for which I believe that the subject can reach a wide audience, from edgy artists to pragmatic plumbers, and even to those who may have had some unfortunate bad high school or college experiences with the subject…