"Black Holes: Peering Behind the Curtain of One of Nature’s Greatest Mysteries"

Lecture by Smith College Physics Professor Gary Felder


First direct image of a supermassive black hole, located at the galactic core of Messier 87. The image was released in 2019 by the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration.


Curious about some of the most mysterious things in our known universe? Join the Smith College Clubs of Ann-Arbor, Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, New York City, and Oregon for "Black Holes: Peering Behind the Curtain of One of Nature’s Greatest Mysteries" with Gary Felder, Professor of Physics. 


A black hole is an object so dense that nothing, not even light itself, can escape from its gravity. While we can’t see inside black holes, much can be learned by observing matter as it falls in towards them, and by using the laws of physics to predict what happens inside. Professor Felder will discuss what we know, and don’t know, for example - Are black holes singularities of infinite density? Are they wormholes to other regions of time and space? What would you experience if you fell into a black hole?


Professor Felder will also explore two recent groundbreaking observations: the 2015 measurement of gravity waves from two colliding black holes, and the 2017 first-ever photograph of a black hole (pictured above).



     About Gary Felder                                                  Gary Felder grew up in North Carolina. He studied physics at Oberlin College, took off three years to backpack around Europe, Israel and Central America, and then returned to school to get a Ph.D.  gary-felder-headshotin physics at Stanford University. His thesis work was with Andrei Linde on the early universe, which has been his main research focus ever since. After getting his doctorate, Felder did a two-year postdoc at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics in Toronto. He is married to Rosemary McNaughton and has two kids, James and Cecelia Felder.

Much of Gary Felder's research deals with the very early universe. Almost all models of the early universe are based on the theory of inflation, which describes the evolution of the universe during its first fraction of a second (roughly 10^ - 31 seconds in the simplest version of the theory). Felder works on a variety of problems involved in understanding how the universe got from this early state to the state we see it in today. His other research interests include numerical simulations more generally (wave propagation in the sun, phase transitions in field theory) and the development of computer and written tools for teaching physics concepts.  

Many of these highly technical-sounding problems can be (and have been) approached by undergraduates with an interest in cosmology. Much of the work involves running computer simulations of the early universe to test the effects of different models. Gary Felder is the co-author of Mathematical Methods in Engineering and Physics, published by John Wiley, a textbook for engineering and physics students. One of Felder's hobbies is writing papers on scientific topics which he believes should be accessible to people with no math or science background. These papers are hosted on the Math and Physics Help Home Page maintained by Gary Felder's brother and include: The Expanding Universe, Beyond the Big Bang: Inflation and the Very Early Universe, Quantum Mechanics: The Young Double-Slit Experiment, Quantum Mechanics: What Do You Do with a Wavefunction?, Spooky Action at a Distance: An Explanation of Bell's Theorem, Things Fall Apart: An Introduction to Entropy, Bumps and Wiggles: An Introduction to General Relativity


Topic: "Black Holes: Peering Behind the Curtain of One of Nature's Greatest Mysteries"

Date: Saturday, June 26, 2021

Time: 4:00 PM to 5:15 PM (ET)

Limit: none

Cost: Free to Members and Non-members


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