UC Berkeley News


Big science
'Amazing Light' symposium to ponder the great questions

25 August 2005

Charles Townes (Bonnie Azab Powell photo)
Some of the greatest minds in physics and cosmology, including 18 Nobel laureates, will explore the great challenges of 21st-century science at "Amazing Light: Visions for Discovery," a three-day international symposium to be held at Berkeley from Thursday, Oct. 6, through Saturday, Oct. 8. Members of the public are invited to attend; the early-registration deadline is Sept. 1.

The symposium is in honor, in his 90th year, of Berkeley physicist Charles Townes, who received the Nobel Prize in 1964 for his work leading to the invention of the laser. It also honors the "amazing laser" itself, the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's "miracle year," and the U.N.-designated World Year of Physics. As the laser did in the 20th century, they symposium will emphasize the potential of technological innovations to accelerate scientific investigation of the "really big questions" that physicists now face — such as "What is the ultimate nature of reality?" "How many dimensions of space are there?" and "Are we alone in the universe?"

"Amazing Light" includes presentations and panel discussions, lectures by renowned scientists, presentations by finalists in an open global "Young Scholars Competition" and of winning designs in a "Laser Challenge" website competition, and a reception and banquet in honor of Townes. UC President Robert Dynes and Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau (both physicists of note), along with L&S Dean of Physical Sciences Mark Richards, and Physics Chair Marjorie Shapiro are the official hosts. For details or to register, see www.foundationalquestions.net/townes.