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Public lecture traces symmetry from Greeks to present day

by | Feb. 25, 2013, 11:13 AM

Sylvester "Jim" Gates (University of Maryland)

Sylvester "Jim" Gates (photo courtesy University of Maryland)

University of Maryland physics professor Sylvester “Jim” Gates will give a free public lecture that traces the important role that the concept of symmetry has played in physics from the time of the ancient Greeks through present-day efforts to create a physical “theory of everything.”

The annual Francis G. Slack lecture is titled “Symmetry and the Quincunx Nexus” and is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 3 p.m. in Stevenson Center Room 4327 on the Vanderbilt campus.

Gates, who is a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, is known for his groundbreaking work in the fields of supersymmetry and supergravity, areas closely related to string theory, which is a candidate for what is commonly called the “theory of everything,” a theory that can explain the origins of all matter and energy in the universe. In 1983, he co-authored the book Superspace or 1001 Lessons in Supersymmetry, which remains a standard in the field. Gates is the first African American to hold an endowed chair in physics at a major research university in the United States.

The annual Francis G. Slack Lecture was established in 1977 to honor Slack, who taught physics at Vanderbilt from 1928 to 1951. He was the first physicist at Vanderbilt to put equal emphasis on teaching and research.

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