IFF Director Margaret Wertheim has been awarded the 2016 Klopsteg Memorial Lecture Award by the American Association of Physics Teachers. On July 18, 2016, Margaret will deliver her lecture at the AAPT’s annual meeting in Sacramento. This is the first time since 2006 the award has been given to a woman. Previous honorees include Harvard theoretical physicist Lisa Randal (2006), Lee Smolin (former director of the Perimeter Institute and the inventor of loop quantum gravity, an alternative to string theory) and Neil de Grasse Tyson (director of the Hayden Planetarium).
About the Klopsteg Award
Named for Paul E. Klopsteg, a former President and long-time member of AAPT, the Klopsteg Memorial Lecture Award recognizes outstanding communication of the excitement of contemporary physics to the general public. The recipient delivers the Klopsteg Lecture at an AAPT Summer Meeting on a topic of current significance.
Description of Margaret’s talk
Of Corals and the Cosmos: A Story of Hyperbolic Space
Throughout the natural world – in corals, cactuses and lettuce leaves – we see swooping, curving and crenelated forms. All these are biological manifestations of hyperbolic geometry, an alternative to the Euclidean geometry we learn about in school. While nature has been playing with permutations of hyperbolic space for hundreds of millions of years, humans spent centuries trying to prove that such forms were impossible. The discovery of hyperbolic geometry in the nineteenth century helped to usher in a revolution in our understanding of space, for such “non-Euclidean geometry” now underlies the general theory of relativity and thus our understanding of the universe. While physicists and astronomers are still trying to discover the geometry of the cosmos, on the Great Barrier Reef the corals making hyperbolic structures are being threatened by global warming and climate change. Bridging the domains of physics, math and culture, this multifaceted lecture will discuss the story of hyperbolic space and its resonances for how we see our world.