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A Night Spent Learning About Black Holes

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A few months ago I was in Waterloo, Canada. Anyone who knows anything about me and knows anything about Waterloo can probably guess I was there to visit Research In Motion, the company behind the iconic Blackberry. It was an interesting visit, and an interesting town. One of RIM’s founders, Mike Lazaridis, with whom I met, poured some of his personal fortune into launching The Perimeter Institute For Theoretical Physics, which I also visited. It’s a place where some of the world’s smartest people gather to try to decode what are literally the very secrets of the universe.

The day of my visit happened to coincide with a public lecture by Brian Greene, a professor of mathematics and physics at Columbia University. He’s the author of “The Elegant Universe” which was adapted into a PBS TV series of the same name. I was invited to attend the lecture and since I had nothing else to do other than return to my hotel room, I accepted. I was warned however to arrive early as seats would fill up soon.

The lecture was given not at the Perimeter Institute itself, but rather at a local high school auditorium. I arrived, was surprised at the turnout. It seemed the entire town had turned up on a beautiful late summer evening to sit in a stuffy un-air conditioned auditorium to hear a physics lecture. I wondered how often this sort of thing happens in the U.S. It was indeed, standing room only.

I hadn’t thought much about the lecture since then. It was certainly fascinating. Greene spoke about, and focused mostly on the finer points of black holes. He relied for some of the lecture on material from his latest book, “Icarus At The Edge Of Time” to illustrate complicated points. I had mostly forgotten about it, until I read the news that Stephen Hawking is The Perimeter Institute’s new distinguished research chair, which means he’ll be visiting Waterloo a few times a year beginning in the summer of 2009, and hopefully giving some public lectures, for which, I’m sure the entire city of Waterloo will turn out.

What I had also forgotten since that night was the fact that I had recorded the lecture. Today I ran across the file by chance, and thought I’d share the audio here. It’s about 68 minutes long (I didn’t edit out the introductions) but you can now hear Brian Greene’s lecture on black holes too. It is, I think, worth the time, even if you have absolutely no interest in theoretical physics.

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Written by ahess247

December 6th, 2008 at 9:20 pm

Posted in Travels,Work