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March 30, 2010

Sir Michael Berry, Popular Speaker on Math and Physics, Coming to ODU

Old Dominion University

Sir Michael Berry

Sir Michael Berry, one of the United Kingdom's best known scientists and a popular speaker about mathematics and physics, will deliver a public lecture at Old Dominion University on Monday, April 12.

Berry's presentation, "Making Light of Mathematics," will begin at 7 p.m. and be held in the E.V. Williams Engineering and Computational Sciences Building's first floor auditorium. There is no charge for the lecture.

The Melville Wills Professor of Physics (Emeritus) at the University of Bristol, Berry has focused his studies on incompletely understood phenomena in the borderlands between classical and quantum physical theories. He refers to these borderlands as a domain of physical asymptotics, and notes that he has focused specifically on geometrical aspects of waves - especially phase - and chaos.

But for laymen, he explains his complex thinking in terms that even Yogi Berra might understand. In fact, he has suggested that the famous New York Yankees catcher, known for his dense comments, could have been thinking about quantum mechanics when he said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Or he might use the poetry of Wallace Stevens as a manifesto on theoretical physics: "They said, 'You have a blue guitar,/You do not play things as they are.'/The man replied, 'Things as they are/Are changed upon the blue guitar.'"

His talk at ODU will delve into how mathematical phenomena find application and sometimes spectacular physical illustration in the physics of light. He will explain how concepts such as fractals, catastrophe theory, knots, infinity, zero, and even 1 plus 1 failing to equal 2, are needed to understand rainbows, twinkling starlight, sparkling seas and oriental magic mirrors.

The lecture is sponsored jointly by ODU's Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Department of Physics.

Old Dominion University
Office of University Relations

Room 100 Koch Hall Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0018
Telephone: 757-683-3114

Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.