Perimeter Institute brings great thinkers from around the world to Canada to share their ideas on a wide variety of interesting and topical subjects. These lectures and debates are aimed at non-specialists. No mathematical or scientific knowledge is necessary or assumed. Each event is explicitly tailored for the general public and everyone is welcome to attend.
For thousands of years people have wondered, "Are we alone?" Out of the 500 planets so far known to orbit nearby stars, about 100 transit their host stars, that is, the planet goes in front of its star as seen from Earth. The transiting planets are "goldmines" for astronomers, because the planetary sizes, masses, and atmospheres can be routinely measured. NASA's Kepler Space Telescope is further revolutionizing transiting exoplanet studies with its unprecedented photometric precision. Dr.
Time is of philosophical interest as well as the subject of mathematical and scientific research. Even though it is a concept familiar to most, the passage of time remains one of the greatest enigmas of the universe. The philosopher Augustine once said: "What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks me, I do not know." The concept time indeed cannot be explained in simple terms. Emotions, life, and death - all are related to our interpretation of the irreversible flow of time. After a discussion of the concept of time, Prof.
Recent experimental evidence suggests that living organisms are using quantum mechanics in a sophisticated fashion to enhance the efficiency of photosynthesis. Bacteria are essentially performing a quantum computation to extract energy from light. I will show how plants and bacteria perform quantum information processing, and will discuss how living creatures engage in all sorts of quantum hanky-panky in their efforts to survive and reproduce.
Isaac Newton is known today as one of the most profound scientists to have ever lived. Newton's discoveries in physics, optics, and mathematics overturned a variety of fundamental beliefs about nature and reshaped science in ways that are still powerfully with us. But this is only part of Newton's fascinating story. Research over the last generation has revealed that the famous scientist spent over thirty years composing, transcribing, and expounding alchemical texts, resulting in a mass of papers totaling about a million manuscript words.
The Bell Curve is an extremely beautiful and elegant mathematical object that turns up – often in surprising ways – in all spheres of human life. The Curve was first used by astronomers to correct errors in their observations, but it soon found important applications in the social and medical sciences in the eighteen hundreds. Some philosophers believe that a new kind of human being was created around this time largely due to the growth of statistical reasoning in the arts and sciences. Dr.
Einstein's theory of General Relativity has taught us that empty space (or, more precisely, spacetime) is in itself a dynamical and wonderfully rich entity for both theoretical physicists and science fiction authors alike. Although it may stretch our imagination, astrophysical observations leave little doubt that spacetime can bend, move and vibrate. If we want to explain these phenomena from an underlying microscopic and more fundamental structure, we need to bring in quantum theory, leading to even more exotic possibilities such as spacetime foam and wormholes. Do they really exist?
Since its launch in 2007, the website Galaxy Zoo (www.galaxyzoo.org) has become the largest astronomical collaboration in history, involving more than 250,00 volunteers in classifying galaxies. Humans outperform computers at this kind of visual classification, and the results from Galaxy Zoo have been spectacular.
Does quantum mechanics really tell us that particles, molecules, and maybe even cats, can be in two places at once? Does it force us to deny a reality that is independent of our observation? How can scientists disagree about what quantum mechanics means and yet still agree that it is right?
For centuries, scientists have attempted to identify analytical laws that underlie physical phenomena in nature. Despite today’s computing power, the process of finding natural laws and their corresponding equations has resisted automation. A key challenge to finding analytic relations automatically – that is, building an autonomous robot - is defining algorithmically what makes a correlation in observed data important and insightful.
The top quark is the heaviest known type of quark, and possibly the last. Particle physicists sometimes refer to it as the "truth” quark, not always with tongue in cheek. The top quark might be just an ordinary quark, no stranger than the "strange" one, but it might hold the key to major questions of Nature through its connection to the origin of mass, the Higgs boson, and cosmic dark matter. At the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory outside Chicago, hundreds of these heavy quarks have been observed and some first snapshots of their behavior have been obtained.