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.
Sixty-five million years ago dinosaurs ruled the warm Cretaceous Earth. Without warning, this world was swept away forever by the impact of an asteroid about 15 km in diameter, leaving a huge scar now called the Chicxulub crater in Yucatan, Mexico. This catastrophe set the stage for the ascendance of our own biological group, the mammals. Although the fact of this impact is now established beyond doubt, the precise means by which an impact could wipe out such a large fraction of the Earth\'s inhabitants is not fully understood.
Sensitive information can be valuable to others - from your personal credit card numbers to state and military secrets. Throughout history, sophisticated codes have been developed in an attempt to keep important data from prying eyes. But now, new technologies are emerging based on the surprising laws of quantum physics that govern the atomic scale. These powerful techniques threaten to crack some secret codes in widespread use today and, at the same time, offer new quantum cryptographic protocols which could one day profoundly alter the way we safeguard critical information.
Hollywood movies about aliens abound, but do they really exist? The real scientific search for evidence of life, and particularly intelligent life, elsewhere in the cosmos is just as exciting as the reel version, and a lot more logical. So far, there is life-as-we-know-it to guide our speculations and observations. But a new appreciation for the tenacity of life, a growing respect for the world of microbes, and new search technologies involving observatories and spacecraft are rapidly expanding our viewpoint. Many expect surprises.
Will big questions be answered when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) switches on in 2007? What will scientists find? Where might the research lead? Nima Arkani-Hamed, a noted particle theorist, is a Professor of Physics at Harvard University. He investigates a number of mysteries and interactions in nature puzzles that are likely to have experimental consequences in the next few years via particle accelerators, like the LHC, as well as cosmological observations.
Using results from models of the atmosphere/ocean/sediment carbon cycle, the impacts of fossil-fuel CO2 release will be examined including the effect on climate many thousands of years into the future, rather than for just a few centuries as commonly claimed. Prof. Archer will explain how aspects of the Earth system, such as the growth or melting of the great ice sheets, the thawing of permafrost, and the release of methane from the methane hydrate deposits in the deep ocean, take thousands of years to respond to a change in climate.
Newton\'s first law of motion - and the very meaning of inertia - has been described as either completely obvious (D\'Alembert) or a \'logician\'s nightmare\' (ex-editor of the American Journal of Physics). Sometimes the simplest things in physics are the most subtle. The first law will be described in historical context, explaining a connection with the ancient Greeks distinction between natural and violent motion and with Descartes\' natural philosophy. You will also learn why it still requires careful handling and what it tells us about time in physics.
From Levins recent book comes a strange if true story of coded secrets, psychotic delusions, mathematics, and war. This story of greatness and weakness, of genius and delusion, circulates around the parallel lives of Kurt Gödel, the greatest logician of many centuries, and Alan Turing, the extraordinary code breaker during World War II. Taken together their work proved that there are limits to knowledge, that machines could be taught to compute, that one day there could be artificial intelligence.
This is a story of how the impossible became possible. How, for centuries, scientists were absolutely sure that solids (as well as decorative patterns like tiling and quilts) could only have certain symmetries - such as square, hexagonal and triangular - and that most symmetries, including five-fold symmetry in the plane and icosahedral symmetry in three dimensions (the symmetry of a soccer ball), were strictly forbidden.
The laws of physics are usually meant to be set in stone; variability is not usually part of physics. Yet contradicting Einstein\'s tenet of the constancy of the speed of light raises nothing less than that possibility. I will discuss some of the more dramatic implications of a varying speed of light. João Magueijo is Professor of Physics at Imperial College London. He is currently visiting Perimeter Institute and the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics in Toronto.
Long before the emergence of planets, stars, or galaxies, the universe consisted of an exploding quantum soup of elementary particles. Encoded in this formless, shapeless soup were seeds of cosmic structure, which over billions of years grew into the beautiful and complex universe we observe today. The lecture will explore the connection between the inner space of the quantum and the outer space of the cosmos. The inner space/outer space connection may hold the key to the nature of the dark matter holding together our galaxy and the mysterious dark energy pulling apart our universe.