Saturday Science seminar series to address concepts in physics

WUSTL physics professors will review some fundamental ideas in physics — from thermodynamics to quantum mechanics — during the regular Saturday Science seminar series sponsored by the Department of Physics in Arts & Sciences and University College.

This semester, the theme of the lectures will be “Concepts in Physics.”

The full exploration of these topics can be complex, but the Saturday Science lectures are geared to the general public. “Anyone with a desire to gain a basic understanding of these topics can take something away from the lectures,” said Robert McDowell, Ph.D., professor emeritus in mathematics in Arts & Sciences, who is a regular at the lecture series with his wife, Att.

“These talks are like a normal physics lecture, but a bit slower,” McDowell said, “and they are delivered by people who know this audience and take into account who’s out there.

“They are very specific but give a general overview of topics in physics at the same time. This lecture series is one of the great things that takes place on this campus,” McDowell said.

Now in their 16th year, these lectures have been very popular, with typical weekly attendance between 150-200, said Michael W. Friedlander, Ph.D., professor of physics in Arts & Sciences and the series’ organizer.

“The audience just fills the room,” McDowell said. “My wife and I know if we get there late, we won’t be able to sit together.”

In previous lecture series, the focus has been on subjects such as the application of physics in medicine, in astrophysics or in studying the structure of solids.

There have also been historical lectures, including some on Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer.

The 2008 lectures begin April 5 and are offered every Saturday in April. They are free and open to the public, and no registration is required.

Presentations begin at 10 a.m. and will take place in Crow Hall, Room 201. The schedule is as follows:

April 5: John Rigden, Ph.D., adjunct professor of physics, will present “What Do the Laws of Thermodynamics Tell Us?”

April 12: Mark Alford, Ph.D., associate professor of physics, will discuss “What Does Quantum Mechanics Tell Us About the Universe?”

April 19: Michael Ogilvie, Ph.D., professor of physics, will present “Are There More Than Four Dimensions?”

April 26: Carl Bender, Ph.D., the Wilfred R. and Ann Lee Konneker Distinguished Professor of Physics, will speak about “Turbulence.”

For more information, contact the Department of Physics at 935-6276 or visit