Award-winning cosmologist and author of Physics of Star Trek is spending the year on campus as a visiting professor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Lawrence Krauss is a theoretical physicist. But Google his name and you don’t get a list of scientific publications. Instead, you get hits like:

• A Slate magazine review of his latest book Hiding in the Mirror, which traces the history of extra dimensions in art, literature and science.
• His remarks opposing the teaching of intelligent design in public schools in a transcript of a special report by the Newshour with Jim Lehrer.
• His New York Times essay titled “How to Make Sure Children Are Scientifically Literate.”
• A list at Barnes & Noble of his popular titles, including The Physics of Star Trek, Fear of Physics and Atom: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth … and Beyond.

As the search results illustrate, Krauss has made a name for himself as a bestselling author, essayist, lecturer, radio and television commentator on top of his basic credentials as an award-winning cosmologist. (He is the only physicist who has received the top awards from all three U.S. professional physics associations for his research and writing). His famous colleague, Stephen Hawking, has written that “Lawrence Krauss has Carl Sagan’s knack of expanding the imagination and explaining the mysteries of the universe in simple terms.”

Krauss, who is the Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics and the Director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University, where he was chair of physics for 12 years, is spending the 2006-2007 academic year as a visiting professor at Vanderbilt.

In September, Krauss flew to Seattle to appear at a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Star Trek. He then traveled to New Haven, Conn., to deliver an invited lecture, titled “Religion Versus Science from the White House to the Classroom,” as part of Yale University‘s prestigious 100th anniversary Terry Lectures on Science and Religion.

Krauss said he writes popular science books to return the favor of the previous generation of scientists, including astronomer George Gamov and Albert Einstein, who wrote the books that inspired him as a boy.

His best-known book, The Physics of Star Trek, actually started as a joke. After he finished Fear of Physics for Basic Books, he was chatting with his editor. She mentioned that her daughter was a Trekkie and laughingly suggested that he might do something about the physics of Star Trek. At first he dismissed the idea, but that night he began thinking about it and realized it might be a good hook to get people thinking about real physics.

One of the benefits Krauss gets from his popularization efforts is contact with people outside of his normal academic circles. “Even hanging out with Klingons isn’t that bad,” he joked.

Krauss has been outspoken on issues of science policy. In 2004, he was one of 60 prominent scientists who signed a letter to the Bush administration complaining about its misuse of scientific information. He has played an active role in the scientific community’s efforts to oppose the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in science classes in the nation’s public schools.

“My connection to Vanderbilt has built up over the years,” Krauss said. In 2001, Krauss was invited to give a public lecture at a physics conference held in Nashville. His daughter was in the process of deciding where to go to college, so she came along to check Vanderbilt out. A year later, Krauss was invited back to give a Chancellor’s lecture and his daughter had decided to attend Vanderbilt. “On that occasion, I met Gordon Gee and we hit it off. I was very impressed with what he is doing,” Krauss said.

Impressed with Vanderbilt’s strength “across the board in science and humanities and science communications,” Krauss decided that the campus would be a good place to “have a base, talk to new colleagues and get away for a year.”

During his stay in Nashville, Krauss will be updating The Physics of Star Trek and Fear of Physics, pursuing some ongoing science projects, working with colleagues at Vanderbilt and beginning work on a new book.

Contact: David F. Salisbury, (615) 343-6803

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