September 1, 2009

Hot Topics in Physics and Astronomy Explored in "What Physicists Do" Lecture Series

Some of the hottest topics in physics and astronomy will be described this fall in Sonoma State University's free public lecture series, "What Physicists Do." Lectures are on Mondays from Aug. 31 through Nov. 23, excluding Labor Day Sept. 7. Lectures start at 4 p.m. in Darwin 103.

The series opens Aug. 31 with University of California, Berkeley astrophysicist Paul Kalas, presenting "Imaging a Planet Around Fomalhaut Using the Hubble Space Telescope." Kalas led a team that used direct imaging to find a planet orbiting the star Fomalhaut, only 25 light-years from Earth.

The search for extrasolar planets will be highlighted in two more talks during the semester. Gibor Basri, Professor of Astronomy and Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion at the University of California at Berkeley, will present the latest results from NASA's new Kepler space telescope on Oct. 12 and Jonathan Fortney of the University of California, Santa Cruz will discuss super-heated, Jupiter-like planets that orbit close to their parent stars on Nov. 9.

Two recently elected American Physical Society fellows will be presenting their research; Thomas Devereaux of Stanford University, who uses the tools of computational physics to understand quantum materials, on Sep. 14, and Per Soderlind of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who studies the quantum-mechanical peculiarities of plutonium, concluding the fall series on Nov. 23.

Other speakers will present on the cultivation of science educators, the process of nuclear muon capture, NASA's new airborne observatory SOFIA, the formation and evolution of massive galaxies, our Galaxy's hidden past, and the search for the Higgs Boson.

This will be the 78th semester for the series of public lectures. The organizer, SSU professor Scott Severson, is grateful to the donors who make it possible. For information on the series or a free downloadable poster describing all thirteen lectures, visit, send e-mail to or call (707) 664-2119.

Jean Wasp
Media Relations Coordinator
University Affairs
(707) 664-2057