News Release
University Affairs Office
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    January 16, 2004      File #
    Contact: Joe Tenn, Physics and Astronomy, (707) 664-2594


From Superstring Theory to Artificial Muscle,
Physicists Lecture Series Explores Latest Developments

The latest developments in astronomy and cosmology will be explored by several speakers in the spring “What Physicists Do” free public lecture series at Sonoma State University.

Lectures will be on Mondays at 4 p.m., from Feb. 2 through May 3, (excluding Feb 16 and April 5), in room Darwin108 on the SSU campus.

There will be talks on other topics as well, including new portable fuel cells to replace batteries, physical oceanography, and recent advances in solar electric power.

The series will begin Feb. 2 with a showing of the first part of the recent NOVA program, "The Elegant Universe," in which Columbia University physicist Brian Greene describes superstring theory and the possibility that it might hold the key to unifying the four forces of nature. This program is titled “Einstein’s Dream.”

On Feb. 9, UC Berkeley astrophysicist Eugene Chiang describes the outer solar system and the recent discovery of many objects similar to Pluto and nearly as big.

On Feb. 23, Luisa Rebull from Caltech presents the first results from NASA’s latest “Great Observatory,” the Spitzer Space Telescope.

Charlie Gay of Sunpower will present the latest developments in solar cell development on March 1. A former director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Gay has headed several solar cell companies.

The $300 million effort to detect gravitational waves with observatories in Washington and Louisiana will be described by Caltech physicist Peter Shawhan on March 8.

Applied physicist Geoffrey Wilson will describe new laser-based methods for the swift detection of airborne pathogens on March 15. Wilson works for Hach Homeland Security Technologies in Oregon.

On March 22, astronomer Roy Gal of the University of California, Davis will explain what his survey of galaxy clusters tell us about the large-scale structure of the universe.

New portable fuel cells which are likely to replace batteries in personal electronic products will be described by Jeffrey Morse of the Lawrence Livermore National Lab on March 29.

On April 12, UC Santa Cruz scientist Christopher Edwards will explain how physical oceanographers study the deep circulation of the oceans.

Claire Max, a world leader in adaptive optics for astronomy, will show how the new technology has allowed her and other astronomers to detect supermassive black holes in the cores of nearby galaxies. Max is based at both UCSC and LLNL.

“Nanotechnology: The Art and Science of Making Small Things” is the topic of Hewlett-Packard physicist Regina Ragan on April 26.

The series will conclude on May 3 with SRI International scientist Ron Pelrine describing his development of artificial muscle. This work has been featured in Scientific American and several other publications and media.

For a free poster describing all twelve lectures, see, send e-mail to, or call (707) 664-2119.


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Last Modified: 01/16/2004