1999 Kemeny Lecture Series

Dr. Jeffrey R. Weeks

will present the following series of lectures

The Shape of Space

Wednesday, May 5, 7:30 pm, Rocky 2

Abstract. Is the universe really infinite? Data from a small NASA satellite may soon show that it's not. The first half of this presentation will use computer games to show how space may be finite, yet have no boundary. Clips from the video The Shape of Space will then take the viewer on a computer-animated tour of several possible shapes for the universe. The presentation will conclude with an explanation of the big bang, and how the radiation remaining from it may reveal the true shape of our universe. (See the article "Is Space Finite?" in the January 1999 issue of Scientific American coauthored by Weeks.)

Curvature and the Universe

Thursday, May 6, 4:00 pm, Rocky 3

Abstract. Paper and scissors activities will introduce the concept of curvature. Then we'll go on to see how the curvature of the universe is governed by the matter it contains, and how it predicts the universe's eventual fate (eternal expansion or eventual collapse). Just when we think we have the answer, last year's observations of distant supernovae will throw a spanner in the works, reviving the idea of a mysterious "vacuum energy" pervading space.

High Tea. Will be served at 3:30 pm in the Faculty Lounge on the second floor of Bradley Hall.

Topological Questions in Cosmology

Friday, May 7, 4:00 pm, Rocky 2

Abstract. Two years from now, data from NASA's Microwave Anisotropy Probe might reveal the exact topology of the universe. Geometers will then repay their debt to the astronomers in two ways, by verifying the correctness of the observed data, and, if the curvature of space is nonzero, by using the geometry's rigidity to improve upon the observed value of Omega, the density parameter governing the evolution of the universe.
Turning to a more speculative topic, efforts to understand the big bang tie in with cosmic topology, and quickly lead to open questions in low-dimensional topology. The questions are simple to state, but may or may not be simple to answer.

High Tea. Will be served at 3:30 pm in the Faculty Lounge on the second floor of Bradley Hall.

Host. Dan Rockmore is the host. Anybody who is interested in having dinner with the speaker during his visit to Dartmouth should contact Dan at 646-3260.