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University lectures explore the universe's known unknowns

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Do you think that travelling into the future and journeying backwards into the past could be more than just a Hollywood fantasy? Did it ever occur to you that the earth might change its orbit - and have you any idea what would happen if it did?

If these are the kind of unknowns you enjoy mulling over, then you shouldn’t miss the Spring Public Lecture Series in Astronomy and Mathematics at the University of Stirling. The series will be delivered by Dr Kelly Cline, a visiting lecturer in the University's Department of Computing and Mathematics, who will explore some fascinating themes during his lectures.

Time Travel: Loopholes from Einstein's Relativity

Thursday 17 February 2011, 7pm, Lecture Theatre V1, Cottrell Building

Is time travel possible? Could we really travel into the future? Could we journey into the past? The lecture will explore how Einstein's theory of relativity means that time travel into the future could really happen, and that laboratory experiments have demonstrated how it actually works on a small scale.

Time travel into the past is a harder question. However some scientists have proposed ideas about how even this might be done. So join us for an exciting discussion about Einstein, relativity, and time travel!

Chaos in the Solar System

Thursday 10 March 2011, 7pm in Lecture Theatre V1, Cottrell Building

Is the Earth’s orbit stable, or could it suddenly change? Have the planets always orbited in the way that they do? Chaos theory is used to understand everything from the weather to stock markets, and it applies to the planets too. The motions of the planets form very complex patterns that never repeat, and could change suddenly under the right circumstances.

Today, using supercomputer simulations, astronomers are exploring the chaotic nature of our solar system, which explains the formation of the asteroid belt, the large orbits of the outer planets, and even explains how the Moon has stabilized the Earth, giving it a moderate climate that allowed complex life to evolve.

Exploring the Atom with the Quantum Theory

Thursday 24 March 2011 from 7pm in Lecture Theatre V1, Cottrell Building

What forces hold atoms together? Are electrons both waves and particles? Scientists have discovered that electrons in an atom act like sound waves, musical notes resonating in a trumpet.

Are atoms ruled by random chance? Einstein hated the idea of randomness in atoms saying, “God does not play dice!” But current research suggests that Einstein is wrong and that randomness is woven into the fabric of our universe.

All of the lectures will take place at the University of Stirling. They are free and open to the public and no pre-booking is required. For further information, please contact Events Manager Suzie Huggins at suzie.huggins@stir.ac.uk

Notes for editors

Dr Cline is on sabbatical leave from his home institution of Carroll College in Helena, Montana, USA, where he holds a post as associate professor of mathematics and astronomy. He has a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Colorado at Boulder and his research focuses on solar magnetism and the processes which lead to the formation of sunspots.

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