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Tim Londergan
Department of Physics

Last modified: Monday, April 28, 2008

World famous physicist to visit IU

April 28, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- On Tuesday, April 29, Indiana University will welcome one of the most famous -- and controversial -- physicists in the world. Roger Penrose, currently the Francis and Helen Pentz Distinguished Professor of Physics and Mathematics at Penn State University, will present a talk about the origins of the universe for the annual Konopinski lecture.

In "Before the Big Bang -- Addressing Some Deep Mysteries of Cosmology," Penrose will present a radical and surprising proposal for what might have happened before the Big Bang, which could help explain one of cosmology's biggest questions: the origin of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The law states, among other things, that one cannot get more energy out of a system than what is put into it.

Roger Penrose

Roger Penrose, one of the world's leading physicists and author of several popular science books, will give two lectures at Indiana University.

"The Department of Physics is deeply honored to have Sir Roger Penrose visiting to present the Joseph and Sophia Konopinski Memorial Public Lecture in Physics," said Rick Van Kooten, professor and chair of the Department of Physics at IU Bloomington. "In particular, he is the author of a number of popular books for the layperson and is an ideal candidate for giving an enjoyable and informative public lecture."

Tim Londergan, chair of the Physics Department's Konopinski Lecture committee, echoed these sentiments saying, "Penrose's ability to communicate with the general public is evident in his several popular books on physics and his theory of the science of consciousness. We are delighted that a scientist as renowned and versatile as Roger Penrose will be giving the annual Konopinski lecture."

Penrose is no stranger to controversial theories. Perhaps his most prominent is his writings on the connection between fundamental physics and human consciousness. Penrose has argued that current physics theories can not explain human consciousness, but with the correct physics understanding, they could, and conciousness could be reproduced in sufficiently complex computers.

Penrose will give a presentation Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Whittenberger Auditorium in the Indiana Memorial Union. He will follow his lecture with another presentation on Wednesday afternoon -- this one on Twistor Theory. The presentation is part of the joint physics and astronomy departments' Joseph and Sophia Konopinski Colloquim series. The latter presentation will begin at 4 p.m., also in Whittenberger Auditorium.

Twistor Theory primarily deals with massless particles. Penrose's talk will outline the main ideas -- using many visual illustrations -- with new work showing how the theory fits elegantly into a cosmological setting when dark energy is taken into account.

"This annual event typically features world renowned physicists," said Van Kooten. "With Professor Penrose's development of Twistor Theory, his deep work on General Relativity contributing to our understanding of black holes, his tilings of the plane that can be used to describe quasi-crystals, and his highly creative work on the connection between fundamental physics and human consciousness, he is definitely of this caliber."