Atomic physicist to discuss 'Real and Imaginary Universes'
Posted: April 13, 2010
By Kathryn Kopchik
LEWISBURG, Pa. — William Reinhardt will give the talk, "A Tour of Real and Imaginary Universes: Jorge Luis Borges meets Stephen Hawking," Monday, April 26, at 7 p.m. in the Forum of the Elaine Langone Center at Bucknell.
The talk, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Bucknell.
"The talk will include an illustrated tour of a real (our own) and an imagined universe (that of Borges...), and staged dramatic readings from texts by Thomas Mann, Herman Melville, Ray Bradbury, Paul Auster, John McPhee and J.L. Borges," said Jay Vaishnav, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Bucknell.
Scientific and mathematical images appear in serious literature, as in the works of Borges and Thomas Mann. According to Reinhardt, scientists writing for a general audience have a great challenge in presenting quantitative mathematical ideas in verbal (non-mathematical and even non-pictorial) form.
"In this talk, intended for students and scholars of all disciplines, some illustrations are given from physical, literary and mathematical points of view," said Vaishnav.
Some of the questions Reinhardt will examine include: What does it mean to be large or small? What is a long time? What is a short time? How big is the physical universe versus the universe of the imagination? What is the difference between information and knowledge?
Reinhardt is professor of chemistry, and adjunct professor of physics at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is the associate editor for chemistry for the Digital Library of Mathematical Functions project, and a frequent visitor to the National Institute of Standards and Technology Physics Laboratory in Gaithersburg.
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