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Updated 10:30 AM October 5, 2009

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Saturday Morning Physics series celebrates science

Now in its 14th year, the Saturday Morning Physics lecture series will tackle topics including human evolution, radiation from neutron stars and the science of music.

Saturday Morning Physics

• 10:30-11:30 a.m. through Nov. 21 in rooms 170 and 182 of Dennison Hall.

• See a complete list of lectures >

"The lecture hall environment is nearly perfect for enhancing public knowledge of and appreciation for science," says Carol Rabuk, coordinator for the lecture series. "That is the purpose of the Saturday Morning Physics lectures."

The lectures first started in 1995 with the goal to educate students, staff and the public on advancements in modern science. By using engaging multimedia resources, post-doctoral researchers, research scientists and other university faculty discuss the latest developments in scientific research on topics including physics, biology, life sciences and current events.

Each year, about 15 to 18 lectures take place, and attendance has steadily grown to as many as 500 participants each week. Faculty, students and local residents, ranging in age from 7 to 70, gather at the university's largest lecture hall, often an hour in advance, to snack on bagels and discuss science and technology.

During many lectures, audience members witness exciting physical experiments, and have the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the demonstrations.

The Department of Physics has a history of involving the campus and local community in modern science. In the past, the department participated in science-related LSA theme semesters, providing relevant courses and outreach activities. "One Hundred Years Beyond Einstein" sparked lectures focused on the progress of science since Einstein's time, while "Exploring Evolution" lectures concentrated on the exploration of biological evolution and how evolutionary science relates to art, humanities and the social sciences.

The physics lecture series has become so popular that word has spread throughout the region, attracting participants from as far away as northern Ohio, northern Michigan and Grand Rapids.

Student responses to the lecture series have been phenomenal, too, Rabuk says. Many will attend to supplement their registered courses at the university, while others come listen to satisfy their love for science. Various teachers from Ann Arbor and Detroit-area high schools also have been offering their students credit for attending the lectures.

The next lecture, taking place at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 10 in Dennison Hall, will host Philip Gingerich, professor of geological sciences and the director of the Museum of Paleontology. Gingerich will discuss evolution, what Charles Darwin knew then and what we know now.

"The ambiance of the Saturday Morning Physics lectures is something quite special," Rabuk says. "It is something very near and dear to my heart."

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