Jefferson Lab announces Fall Science Series line up

September 12, 2003

Jefferson Lab hosts Fall and Spring Science Series to engage the public in a range of current scientific topics. Guest speakers from across the nation are invited to the Lab to present their sometimes entertaining or thought-provoking, but always informative lectures or demonstrations.

The Jefferson Lab Fall Science Series kicks off on Tuesday, Sept. 23, with guest speaker Richard Tapia, a mathematician and professor in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics at Rice University, Houston, Texas. He is internationally known for his research in the computational and mathematical sciences and is a national leader in education and outreach programs.

His presentation, "Mathematics is Everywhere in my Real Life" includes his experiences with BMX bike racing and car shows. In the first part of his talk, Tapia uses lively video footage to identify and illustrate what he calls the Curse of Lane 8 or The Fair Lane Assignment Problem in BMX bike racing. He then uses his training to formulate the problem mathematically and solves it. In the second part of the talk, Tapia shows and describes the making of a video designed to accompany the showing of his 1970 Chevelle Malibu SS at car shows across the country. Both the car and video are titled "Heavy Metal." The video attempts to depict the late 1960s and early 1970s in terms of muscle cars and heavy metal music using psychedelic video images constructed entirely using mathematics. Numerical simulations of fluid flow in and around the car are obtained using numerical methods to solve the equations that govern fluid flow. By being creative with the mathematical parameters and solution techniques, some very interesting images and patterns are obtained. In this way the video demonstrates that mathematics can take us places where physics can't.

The second event in the lecture series is set for Tuesday, October 7, with Michael Henchman, a chemistry professor from Brandeis University, Massachusetts. "Multi-Million Dollar Forgeries Exposed" asks: is the Vinland Map the first map of American? Was it drawn 50 years before Columbus to show how the Vikings in 1000 AD first found America? Purchased in 1960 for $1 million, the map is now valued at $25M. Does that make it genuine or could it still be a worthless fake? After 50 years, why do we still have no answer?

What can a scientific detective do today that has not been tried before? This is the contest--pitting scientist against scientist, fake buster against forger. Weapons range from fancy spectrometers to rulers. Is the piece genuine or are we simply too ignorant to recognize the item in question as a fake? That is always the question.

The November event set for Wednesday, November 5, features Tom Siegfried, Science Editor for The Dallas Morning News. His discussion topic is "Strange Matters: Science Headlines from the 21st Century."

Science is full of examples of prediscovery-- the prediction of new phenomena in advance of physical clues to their existence. Antimatter, black holes, even the expansion of the universe were figured out by physicists studying squiggles on paper before any observer produced real evidence. Scientists have proposed a long list of new strange ideas of things that might be out there--from strange quark matter and invisible stars to new dimensions of space and time.

Eventual discoveries of such "strange matters" will make the biggest science headlines of the 21st century, possibly revealing new insights into the relationship between math and the real world. From strange quark matter to multiple universes, visionaries predict the weird things science has yet to discover. Siegfried wants to show us a snapshot of what is now only fermenting in the minds of physicists but may one day become canonical knowledge.

The Fall Science Series will come to a close on Tuesday, December 9, with Robert K. Adair, Yale University, and "The Physics of Baseball." The Sterling Professor Emeritus of Physics, one-time National Baseball League Official Physicist and author of "The Physics of Baseball," talks with the public about the physical principles involved in the game of baseball, corked-bats, moving outfield fences, and why the big guys keep hitting the long ball. The flight of the ball, pitching, batting, and the properties of bats are discussed in nontechnical language that can be understood by young adults familiar with introductory physics.

All Science Series presentations begin at 7 p.m. in Jefferson Lab's CEBAF Center auditorium, located at 12,000 Jefferson Ave., Newport News. The presentations last about one hour with a question and answer period at the end. The events are free and open to anyone interested in learning more about science. For security purposes during Science Series events, enter at Jefferson Lab's main entrance (Onnes Dr.). Everyone over 16 is asked to carry a photo ID and security guards may perform ID and vehicle checks. For more information, visit or e-mail

Jefferson Lab is a Department of Energy, Office of Science basic physics research facility.

DOE/Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

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