World Intellectual Property Day -- 26 April 2011

God, the Multiverse
and Cosmic Arrogance
Michael Turner
Distinguished Service Professor, Astronomy and Astrophysics
Director, Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics
—University of Chicago—

Tuesday, April 26, 5:30-8:30pm
19 South Wabash, 2d floor

Cocktails at 5:30, presentation 6:00-6:30 followed by discussion and more cocktails.     $40 includes drinks, two cigars, and sandwiches. 
Reservations are required.

SCIENCE HAS NOT HAD MUCH NEW TO SAY ABOUT GOD SINCE mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace remarked to Napoleon that he had no need for "that hypothesis" when asked why he had neglected the deity in his treatise, Celestial Mechanics (1799-1825).  Stephen Hawking recently published a book in which he says "there is no necessity for God" -- a statement that the media perhaps willfully misconstrued as "there is no God."  How is it then that the laws of physics allow for the miracle of our existence? A universe in which there is an excess of matter over antimatter, where galaxies host stars that last billions of years and harbor planets, and in which carbon-based organisms evolved. Such a miracle would not have occurred if the constants of nature had been slightly different.  Reminiscent of Winston Churchill's faint praise of the United States -- that we get it right after we have exhausted all the alternatives -- it may be that every possible kind of universe, with every possible variation on the laws of nature, exists in a grand and impossibly enormous multiverse, in which every alternative is tried, somewhere.  We find ourselves in the only universe from among these multitudes that can support our existence.  The multiverse is possibly the most important idea of our time, and may even be right, but it gives me a headache.   Is it science if we can't test it?  Can something come from nothing?  Why? 

Michael S. Turner is a theoretical astrophysicist and the Bruce V. and Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago.  He is also Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at Chicago, which he helped to establish. Turner was born in Los Angeles, CA, and attended public schools there; he received his B.S. from Caltech (1971), his M.S. (1973) and Ph.D. (1978) from Stanford (all in physics) and an honorary D.Sc. from Michigan State University (2005).  Turner helped to pioneer the interdisciplinary field of particle astrophysics and cosmology (for which he shared the 2010 Dannie Heineman Prize), and with Edward Kolb initiated the Fermilab astrophysics program which today accounts for about 10% of the lab’s activities.  He led the National Academy study Quarks to the Cosmos that laid out the strategic vision for the field.  Turner’s scholarly contributions include predicting cosmic acceleration and coining the term dark energy, showing how quantum fluctuations evolved into the seed perturbations for galaxies during cosmic inflation, and several key ideas that led to the cold dark matter theory of structure formation.   His honors include Warner Prize of the American Astronomical Society, the Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society (APS), the Klopsted Award of the American Association of Physics Teachers and the Heineman Prize (with Kolb) of the AAS and American Institute of Physics.   

Turner’s twenty-plus former Ph.D. students hold faculty positions at leading universities around the country (e.g., Chicago, Caltech and University of Michigan), at national laboratories (Fermilab, JPL, and Argonne) and on Wall Street.  He has served as Chief Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory (2006 to 2008), Assistant Director for the Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the National Science Foundation (2003 to 2006), Chair of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics (1997 to 2003) and President of the Aspen Center for Physics (1989 to 1994).  Turner’s recent national service includes membership on the NRC’s Astronomy Decadal Survey (Astro2010) and Board on Physics and Astronomy; and membership on the NASA Advisory Committee (NAC) and on the Senior Editorial Board of Science Magazine. Turner is currently Chairman of the Board of the Aspen Center for Physics, a Director of the Fermi Research Alliance, and a member of the Governing Board of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS Council).  Turner was elected to the Presidential-line of the American Physical Society in 2010 and will serve as its President in 2013.

 April 26 - 1514 - Copernicus made his first observations of Saturn.

Professor Turner


Coming up

Tuesday, May 10
Robert Wallace, Professor of Classis, Northwestern University, asks, Why did the Athenians Kill Socrates?
19 S. Wabash, 2d floor.

Tuesday, May 24
Emmy and Telly award winner Alfred Rasho on Making Short Documentary Films.
19 S. Wabash, 2d floor.

In June thru August the Cigar Society will meet every nice Tuesday at the Ceres Cafe, outdoors, next to the Board of Trade Building and Jack Schwartz cigars.

Physics and the Universe of Verse

(recommended reading)

Stern and Gerlach: How a bad cigar helped reorient atomic physics

The Physics of Smoke Rings

Cecil Adams's Epic Poem on the fate of Schroedinger's Cat

Cocktail Party Physics: Physics with a Twist

Some Physics Doggerel by James Clerk Maxwell

The Art and Poetry of Chaos

The Waltz of Elementary Particles


About the Cigar Society of Chicago

ONE OF THE OLDEST AND greatest traditions of the city clubs of Chicago is the discussion of intellectual, social, legal, artistic, historical, scientific, musical, theatrical, and philosophical issues in the company of educated, bright, and appropriately provocative individuals, all under the beneficent influence of substantial amounts of tobacco and spirits.  The Cigar Society of Chicago embraces this tradition and extends it with its Informal Smokers, University Series lectures, and Cigar Society Dinners, in which cigars, and from time to time pipes and cigarettes, appear as an important component of our version of the classical symposium.  To be included in the Cigar Society's mailing list, write to the Secretary at