Physics Day: Celebrating 100 years of Einstein

Try to imagine a universe in which Einstein never existed. Chances are, we would not comprehend a micron of what we do today. 2005 marks the 100th anniversary of three seminal publications by Albert Einstein, outlining his theories of special relativity, light quanta, and Brownian motion. To celebrate the occasion, Carnegie Mellon?s Physics Student Advisory Council held the first Physics Day last Friday.
The celebration began with a presentation by Professor Richard Holman on his research in quantum mechanics, field theory, and inflationary cosmologies. According to inflation, an early universe expanded rapidly, then settled into the expansion rates a la the standard Big Bang model. ?Each universe after inflation is flat,? Holman said, and ours is very nearly the same. During inflation, multiple subdivisions may arise within one universe, dividing it into huge portions of spacetime. Each portion can have its own natural constants and specific laws of physics.
?Cross-universe talk [communication between different universes] cannot happen because [each person] is out of the other?s horizon,? Holman said. Over 20 years, Holman developed a formalism that can be used to describe quantum fields in fluctuating environments, such as those that occur during and immediately after these inflationary phases. Holman?s research exemplifies how Einstein?s quantum theory of light can be used to spark a current hypothesis.
Following Holman?s presentation, Physics Day continued with homemade vanilla ice cream made using liquid nitrogen. The final event of the evening was a screening of the film Primer.
For SAC chairs and event organizers Jasmine Ma and Michael Do, the event was a great sucess. ?Physics [itself] should be celebrated,? they said.
?It raises people?s awareness of what Einstein did 100 years ago,? Ma noted; she said she was ?happy with the large turnout Friday evening.?
Physics SAC plans on hosting more events next semester. They encourage all CMU students to be more involved in the sciences. ?It?s the cool thing to do,? Do said.
Students from all disciplines attended last week?s events. Kristopher Alan Borer, a senior mechanical engineering major, loved Physics Day: ?Physics Day was great.?
Thomas Fitzgerald Newcomer, a senior creative writing major, said, ?Physics Day enlarged my frontal lobe at a statistical rate which cannot be calculated! Just because you?re in humanities doesn?t mean you cannot benefit from the lessons learned from theoretical science.?
Einstein?s theories changed the world forever, opening the door to countless exciting ideas that physicists continue to explore today. One hundred years later, physicists still use Einstein?s principles as foundations for their work. As Einstein said: ?The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day.?