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Predicting the future is topic of Feigl Lecture

Spencer R. Weart, director of the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics, will speak on “Trendspotting: Physics Past and World Future,” at 4:10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, in Lewis Lab Room 270.

The talk, which is free and open to the public, is part of the Frank J. Feigl Lecture Series, established by Lehigh’s department of physics in memory of Frank J. Feigl, who served 21 years on the department’s faculty until his death in 1988. A well-read advocate of liberal education, Feigl was renowned for his research into the impurities and defects in semiconducting materials and insulators, and was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Weart’s talk will explore how today’s children will live when they are old, three-quarters of a century from now. To guide his predictions, Weart will look back the same length of time, focusing on physical scientists – a small community with enormous impact.

Weart notes that physicists of the 1930s, advancing through quantum and nuclear physics, were surprisingly insightful about how powerfully these developments would alter the world, and that much of what they conjectured came to fruition in half the time that was predicted.

The tremendous advances promised by today’s physical scientists will be viewed through the prism of climate science, which has expanded from an obscure specialty to a huge and complex enterprise that is confidently predicting a grave global warming crisis.

Originally trained as a physicist, Weart is now a noted historian specializing in the history of modern physics and geophysics. Following his work at the California Institute of Technology, he changed fields and entered his current position as director of the Center for History of Physics in College Park, Md., in the mid-70s. He is the author of several books, including Never at War: Why Democracies Will Not Fight One Another, and The Discovery of Global Warming: New Histories of Science, Technology and Medicine .

Posted on Tuesday, October 03, 2006

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