APL Colloquium

November 15, 2002

Colloquium Topic: Crazy Ideas in Science

Electro-Optical (E-O) systems Crazy ideas have played an important and under appreciated role in the development of science. Although most crazy ideas lead only to blind alleys, some of them are the basis of revolutionary breakthroughs. Some of science's most important concepts from gravity to evolution have surfaced from the pool of crazy ideas. In fact, a good part of science requires distinguishing between useful crazy ideas and those that are just plain nutty. As examples: did the universe start with a big bang, does our solar system have two suns, do faster-than-light particles exist, can time-travel be ruled out? Are there ways that we can sort out the more promising crazy ideas, or can this only be done in retrospect? This issue is of considerable importance not just to scientists, but to laypersons as well, who are continually being bombarded by controversial claims. This talk will be based on Dr. Ehrlich's book, Nine Crazy Ideas in Science: A Few Might Even be True, and a sequel currently in press.

Colloquium Speaker: Robert Ehrlich

Dr. Robert Ehrlich received his B.S. in physics from Brooklyn College in 1959 and his Ph.D. in particle physics from Columbia University in 1964. He began his academic teaching career at University of Pennsylvania, continuing at Rutgers and then at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Since 1977, he has taught physics at George Mason University. Dr. Ehrlich is the author or editor of 19 books and many articles in professional journals. His research interests include elementary particle physics, nuclear weapons policies, faster-than-light tachyons, and inferences from the cosmic ray spectrum.