Meeting Information

Is God a Mathematician?

May 19, 2010
American Center for Physics
College Park, MD

Date: May 19, 2010

Speaker: Prof. Mario Livio, Space Telescope Science Institute

Topic: Is God a Mathematician?

Time and Location: Talk starts at 1:00 pm with Q&A to follow. It will be held in one of the first floor conference rooms at the American Center for Physics, One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD. This is located off River Road, between Kenilworth Ave. and Paint Branch Parkway.

Abstract: For centuries, mathematical theories have proven uncannily accurate at describing - and predicting - the physical world. What is it that gives mathematics such powers?

I will thoroughly review this question in "Is God A Mathematician?" (talk based on my recently published book). The talk will span such fields as mathematics, cosmology, physics, and the cognitive sciences, and will attempt to offer an accessible and lively account of the ideas of some of the greatest mathematicians and scientists in history, from Archimedes to Galileo and Descartes, and from Newton to Einstein and Gödel, on up to the present day.

Along the way I will discuss another question with which mathematicians, philosophers, and neuroscientists have struggled for centuries: Is mathematics ultimately invented or discovered?

Biography: Prof. Mario Livio is a senior astrophysicist and Head of the Office of Public Outreach at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), the institute which conducts the scientific program of the Hubble Space Telescope. He received his Ph.D. in theoretical astrophysics from Tel Aviv University in Israel, was a professor in the Physics Dept. of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology from1981 till 1991, and joined STScI in 1991. Prof. Livio has published over 400 scientific papers and received numerous awards for research, for excellence in teaching, and for his books.

His interests span a broad range of topics in astrophysics, from cosmology to the emergence of intelligent life. Prof. Livio has done much fundamental work on the topic of accretion of mass onto black holes, neutron stars, and white dwarfs, as well as on the formation of black holes and the possibility to extract energy from them.

During the past decade Prof. Livio's research focused on super nova explosions and their use in cosmology to determine the rate of expansion of the universe, and the nature of the "dark energy" that causes the cosmic expansion to accelerate. He has also worked on the survival of extrasolar planets. Livio' s popular book "The Golden Ratio" won him the "Peano Prize" for 2003, and the "International Pythagoras Prize" for 2004, as the best popular book on mathematics.  His new book, "Is God A Mathematician?", has appeared in January 2009. It discusses what has been dubbed the "unreasonable effectiveness" of mathematics in explaining the universe. The book was selected by the Washington Post as one of the best books of 2009.