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POWER CENTER BALLROOM, Sept. 24, 2015 - 7 PM

Einstein Centennial Lecture

Einstein Cosmic Shadows

Professor of Mathematics, Physics and Business Administration
Duke University

Einstein changed the way we see the world by uniting space and time into a single entity, called spacetime, and treating gravity as the bending of spacetime. One consequence is that light rays no longer travel on straight lines, but on curved highways that can criss cross. This produces cosmic shadows and illumination patterns similar to those in a swimming pool or on the side of a boat. Interestingly, the shadow patterns cast by microscopic black holes touch on a rather deep question. Is there a fifth dimension? In other words, is there an extra dimension of physical space beyond length, width, and height? If so, how would we know it is there? If true, this provocative idea would profoundly impact our perception of the natural world, analogous to how we no longer think of the earth as flat.

This talk unveils some of the cosmic and mathematical secrets of these mysterious and beautiful shadow patterns, and their connection to the possibility of a fifth dimension.

Free and open to the public with reception to follow.

Sponsored by the Dean’s Office of the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Dr. Arlie Oswald PettersDr. Arlie Oswald Petters is the Benjamin Powell Professor at Duke University. After graduating from an accelerated BA/MA program from Hunter College, he received his PhD in mathematics from MIT in 1991 with a specialization in mathematical physics. Dr. Petters was the first to develop the mathematical theory of gravitational lensing, which brought powerful methods from pure mathematics to bear on astronomy. He pioneered new applications of gravitational lensing in physics, predicting effects that probe the nature of spacetime around black holes and developing tests of gravitational theories like Einstein's general relativity and hyperspace gravity models. Dr Petters' recognitions include an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, a National Science Foundation Career grant, and the first Blackwell-Tapia Prize in the Mathematical Sciences. As the first tenured African-American at Duke's department of mathematics, he received numerous community service awards for mentoring members of underrepresented groups. In 2005 Dr. Petters founded a center of excellence in his native Belize aimed at developing the STEM human capital and fostering Belize's national development through environmentally sustainable applications of STEM tools in entrepreneurship and innovation. Dr. Petters has been honored with membership in the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire as a result of exceptional work in research, education and outreach.

See Dr. Petters featured in:

In 1915, a full ten years after achieving public celebrity for formulating the special theory of relativity and discovering that matter has latent amounts of energy, Albert Einstein amazed the science world by presenting it with the relativistic theory of gravity, which he called general relativity. The impact of Einstein’s momentous 1915 development to modern life includes such common notions as the cosmological “big bang,” black holes and GPS technology.


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