WACO, TEXAS - Dr. John C. Mather, Nobel laureate in physics and senior project scientist for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) project was on hand at the BRIC Nov. 8 to deliver the inaugural presentation in the BRIC Foundations: Leaders in Innovation lecture series.
The standing-room-only audience of scientists, engineers, students and others heard Mather relate progress on the JWST project and describe the instrument's capabilities, which are much expanded and improved over those of the legendary but aging Hubble Space Telescope it is designed to replace. The JWST is slated for a 2018 launch.
Mather's audience included Dr. Roy J. Glauber, winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in physics, and Baylor quantum optics researcher Dr. Marlon Scully, all three of whom are fellows of the National Academy of Sciences.
The previous day, Mather spoke to an overflow lecture hall crowd in the Baylor Science Building on The History of the Universe from Beginning to End. During the talk he detailed in layman's terms the current thinking on the origins and nature of the cosmos and some of the ways cosmologists and astronomers arrive at those theories.
"We look back in time," Mather explained. "We look at things as they were when they sent light to us. Light travels fast, but not so fast that it doesn't matter. So you really can look back in time if you look at things that are far away."
Mather and co-researcher George Smoot received the 2006 Nobel Prize in physics for their work on the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite. Launched in 1989, the NASA satellite mapped infrared and microwave radiation at the farthest reaches of the universe, establishing the Big Bang Theory as the predominant framework for modern cosmology.