Nobel Laureate Opens BRIC Lecture Series

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.

Abstract - The history of the universe in a nutshell, from the Big Bang to now, and on to the future – John Mather will tell the story of how we got here, how the Universe began with a Big Bang, how it could have produced an Earth that can sustain human existence, and how human beings are discovering their history. Mather was Project Scientist for NASA's COsmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite, which measured the spectrum (the color) of the heat radiation from the Big Bang, discovered hot and cold spots in that radiation, and hunted for the first objects that formed after the great explosion. He will explain Einstein's biggest mistake, how Edwin Hubble discovered the expansion of the universe, how the COBE mission was built, and how the COBE data support the Big Bang theory. He will also show NASA's plans for the next great telescope in space, the James Webb Space Telescope. It will look even farther back in time than the Hubble Space Telescope, and will peer inside the dusty cocoons where stars and planets are being born today. It is capable of examining Earth-like planets around other stars using the transit technique, and future missions may find signs of life.

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.