Speaker: Mario Livio, internationally known astrophysicist and best-selling author
Topic: Symmetry: From Human Perception to the Laws of Nature
Date & Time: Nov. 22, 3:45 p.m.
Location: Robert L. Bigelow Physics Building, Room 217
What do Bach's compositions, Rubik's Cube, the way we choose our mates, and the physics of subatomic particles have in common? All are governed by principles of symmetry, which elegantly unify scientific and artistic principles. Yet the mathematical language of symmetry — known as "group theory" did not emerge from the study of symmetry at all, but from an equation that couldn't be solved.
For thousands of years mathematicians solved progressively more difficult algebraic equations, until they encountered the quintic equation, which resisted solution for three centuries. Working independently, two great prodigies ultimately proved that the quintic cannot be solved by a simple formula. These geniuses, a Norwegian named Niels Henrik Abel and a romantic Frenchman named Évariste Galois, both died tragically young. Their incredible labor, however, produced the origins of the language of all symmetries.