Full Circle - The Physics and Astronomy Connection

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Mar 14, 2007 - Full Circle - The Physics and Astronomy Connection - Dr. W. John McDonald, Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta

Physics, the study of our natural world grew out of astronomy and especially the work of Kepler, Galileo and Newton which showed how we could describe and understand planetary motion. In the last century, relativity and quantum physics revolutionized the way we view the matter that we, the planets and our universe, are composed of as well as the strangely formed space we inhabit. Currently, Physics and Astronomy are reuniting in the age old attempt to uncover the origins of the universe and its remarkable evolution.

My talk will be an attempt at a plain language explanation of the central advances in physics of the last century, relativity and the quantum. I will use these advances to show how the particles of which the material world is composed interact, and how understanding those interactions helps to explain the origins and evolution of the universe.

Presentation (3.5Mb pdf)

Bio: John McDonald holds a B.Sc. in Engineering Physics (1959) and an M. Sc. (1961) From the University of Saskatchewan, and a PhD from the University of Ottawa (1964). He was a faculty member at the University of Alberta from 1965 to 2001 and Chairman of the Department of Physics (1976 to 1980), Dean of the Faculty of Science (1981 to 1991), Vice President (Academic) (1991 to1994) and Acting President (1994). Currently he is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics (UK), Professor Emeritus at the University of Alberta and Adjunct Professor at the University of Victoria.

John's research was in nuclear and particle physics and he is the author or co-author of 250 published scientific papers. He contributed to the development of the Tile Endcap for OPAL detector at the CERN Laboratory in Geneva and played a major role in the ALTA project to study ultra high-energy cosmic rays.

Currently, John is enjoying retirement in Victoria. He continues to study and enjoy physics, especially its connection with cosmology, and he serves on the Research Council of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Recreational activities including flying, model building and cross country skiing have been an important part of his life and he is now having a great time learning to observe and photograph the sky.

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Last updated: January 29, 2014

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