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Science Fiction and Reality

Recording Details

Speaker(s): 
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PIRSA Number: 
08050023

Abstract


In the recent past, rapid scientific and technological developments have had tremendous impact on human society. Notably, the personal computer, internet and mobile telephones changed the world and shrank our planet. These developments are vastly different from the forecasts by science fiction authors who promised us space travel and intelligent humanoid robots. Could real scientists have done a better job in forecasting the future? What can we say about the future now?


Many science fiction fantasies will never materialize. Some will, but only over time spans of millions of years rather than a couple of centuries. Nature's laws are very strict and forbidding but also show gaps that might promise fantastic possibilities for a scientific future, even within our lifetime.


 Gerard T' Hooft was born in 1946, and raised in the Netherlands. He studied theoretical physics at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, completing his thesis work in 1972, under the supervision of Martin Veltman. For two years he continued his research at the European particle physics laboratory CERN, Geneva. After lectureships at Utrecht and in the USA (Harvard, Stanford), he was appointed full professor at Utrecht University in 1976. Among his many honours, he and Veltman were awarded the The Nobel Prize in physics 1999, ""For elucidating the quantum structure of electroweak interactions in physics"", which refers to their joint work in 1972. More recently, T' Hooft became a member of Perimeter Institute’s highly esteemed Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC).


His research brought important new insights showing how to use quantized fields to describe sub-atomic particles, such as renormalization, magnetic monopoles, quark confinement and the physical effects of instantons. Later he turned his interest to the quantum aspects of gravitation and black holes. Dr. T' Hooft also supports educational outreach activities and considers the communication of fundamental science to the public as one of his most important duties.