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Mario Livio Distinguished Speaker Series

March 18, 2010
4pm, Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science 76-1125

Open to the Public

Book signing to follow.                                                                          Poster

Livio Bookcover

Mario Livio, Space Telescope Science Institute                            Website


ABSTRACT: For centuries, mathematical theories have proven uncannily accurate at describing - and even predicting - the physical world. What is it that gives mathematics such powers?

In "Is God A Mathematician?" this question will be thoroughly reviewed. The talk will span such fields as mathematics, cosmology, physics, and the cognitive sciences, and will attempt to offer an accessible and lively account of the lives and thoughts of some of the greatest mathematicians and scientists in history, from Archimedes to Galileo and Descartes, and from Newton to Hilbert and Gödel, on up to the present day.

Along the way I will discuss another question with which mathematicians, philosophers, and neuroscientists have struggled for centuries: Is mathematics ultimately invented or discovered?

Biography: Dr Mario Livio is a senior astrophysicist and former Head of Science Division at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), the institute which conducts the scientific program of the Hubble Space Telescope.

He received his Ph.D. in theoretical astrophysics from Tel Aviv University in Israel, was a professor in the Physics Dept. of the Technion-Israel Institute of technology from 1981 till 1991, and joined STScI in 1991. Dr Livio has published over 400 scientific papers and received numerous awards for research and for excellence in teaching.

His interests span a broad range of topics in astrophysics, from cosmology to the emergence of intelligent life. Dr Livio has done much fundamental work on the topic of accretion of mass onto black holes, neutron stars, and white dwarfs, as well as on the formation of black holes and the possibility to extract energy from them. During the past five years Dr Livio's research focused on supernova explosions and their use in cosmology to determine the rate of expansion of the universe, and the nature of the "dark energy" that causes the cosmic expansion to accelerate.

In addition to his scientific interests, Dr Livio is a self-proclaimed 'art fanatic' who owns many hundreds of art books. He has combined his passions for science and art in two popular books, "The Accelerating Universe", which appeared in 2000, and "The Golden Ratio", which appeared in 2002. The former book discusses 'beauty' as an essential ingredient in fundamental theories of the universe. The latter discusses the amazing appearances of the peculiar number 1.618... in nature, the arts, and psychology.

Dr Livio lectures very frequently to the public. He has given 14 full day seminars to the public at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., and has given public lectures at the Hayden Planetarium in New York, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Berlin Planetarium, the Edinburgh Planetarium, and many more.