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STANFORD -- A public lecture series on science and society will be held at Stanford the week of July 25 in association with the seventh Marcel Grossmann Meeting on General Relativity, a major international scientific gathering that is taking place on campus.
All lectures are free and open to the public.
Individual lectures include:
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, "The Series Paintings of Claude Monet and the Landscape of General Relativity"
Are scientists and artists similarly motivated in their respective pursuits? In his series paintings, Monet was interested in the way immutable objects constantly took on new forms in the changing color or light during a day or seasons. In the landscape of general relativity, one also can find nearly identical immutable objects that unfold to present a variety of phenomena with different physical contents.
Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist Chandrasekhar invented the concept of the white dwarf star in the 1920s at the age of 23. Since then he has covered more fields of research than almost any other living scientist. His experience of life covers three continents and different cultures. His book Beauty and Truth is a classic of reflection on the meaning of the scientific search.
Fang Li Zhi, "Decline of Central Totem and New Horizons"
What are the past, present and future roles of science in societal reformation? What places do the development, implementation and impact of scientific advancements take in different contexts - intellectual, societal, etc.? One of the answers can be found in contemporary China.
Fang is a distinguished astrophysicist who, as the former rector of Hofei University in the People's Republic of China, was one of the two or three leaders of liberal opinion in China at the time of the Tiananmen Square tragedy. He was forced to take refuge in the American Embassy in Beijing and later to come to the West, though he still maintains close links with China. Early in his career, he was imprisoned as part of the cultural revolution. His reflections on freedom and science challenge authorities other than the authority of truth.
Wolfgang K. H. Panofsky, "Physical Heritage of the Cold War"
The Cold War priority of weapons production has left a vast heritage of environmental consequences and weapons stockpiles. It turns out, particularly in the case of nuclear devices, that the safeguarding, storage and eventual destruction of such stockpiles is more difficult than their production.
Panofsky was a professor of physics at Stanford and then directed the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center from 1961 to 1984. While elementary particle physics experimentation and accelerator design were the focus of his career, he served as a consultant to the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico during the war years. Since then, he has advised numerous government agencies and presidents - including Eisenhower, Kennedy and Carter - and written often on the subject of arms control and disarmament.
Yuval Ne'eman, "Copernican Humility, Chance and the Creation of Purpose"
Serendipity is a way of characterizing with a single word the unforeseen surprises occurring in methodical scientific searches. If science and technology are the DNA for social evolution, then serendipity is to their evolution what random genetic mutation is to the evolution of living species.
Ne'eman is coinventor of the idea of the quark, the subparticle thought to be the real basis of the structure of atomic nuclei. Ne'eman also has played a critical role in Israeli politics, serving at one time as Israeli minister of science, and he has been involved in Israeli military and intelligence activities. His philosophical reflections on the meaning of chance in quantum theory will extend to personal experiences of chance in human life and how to act on it.
The lectures are sponsored by the Wesson Lecture Series of the Institute for International Studies and the Office of the Dean of Research, Stanford University; the International Center for Relativistic Astrophysics; Lockheed Missiles and Space Co., Inc.; the National Science Foundation; and Hewlett-Packard Co.
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