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String theory, strings and Einstein celebrated in “Einstein’s Universe” series

February 15, 2011

Einstein's UniverseOne day, the story goes, Albert Einstein was playing a string duet with his friend Fritz Kreisler, the famous Viennese violinist.  Einstein went off the melody at one point. “You know, Albert,” said Kreisler, “your trouble is that you can’t count.” 

It’s a funny story that brings up a little-known fact: Einstein (1879-1955), the great physicist who changed our view of the universe with his revolutionary theories, was in his spare time an eager amateur violinist and chamber music fan.  Now there’s a chance to explore the fascinating links between music and physics as exemplified by Einstein, as award-winning British violinist Jack Liebeck and Brian Foster, Oxford professor of physics and himself an amateur violinist, bring their internationally acclaimed “Einstein’s Universe” series of three lecture-performances to Chapman University, Feb. 28 through March 3.  All are free and open to the public.

Liebeck, named Young British Classical Performer of 2010, and Foster first conceived of “Einstein’s Universe” as a part of the International Year of Physics in 2005, also known as “Einstein Year” in celebration of Einstein’s lasting influence on our world.  Since then, they have won rave reviews around the globe for their compelling lecture-performances, which spotlight the intersection of Einstein’s science and his love of music.   “A program such as ‘Einstein’s Universe’ provides a reaffirmation that the concerns of physical sciences and the humanities are much the same,” said Patrick Quinn, Ph.D., dean of Chapman’s Wilkinson College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “The pathway to knowledge is intertwined with an appreciation of both approaches.  We very much look forward to these illuminating events and hope the public will join us for these unique programs.”

The series is co-presented by Wilkinson College and Chapman’s Office of the Chancellor, College of Performing Arts, Schmid College of Science and Leatherby Libraries. Program events include:

  • Monday, Feb. 28, 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall, Opening Lecture-Performance: “Einstein’s Universe.”  Physicist Foster will delve into Einstein’s groundbreaking ideas, which have shaped our modern view of the universe – including the famous Theory of Relativity.  Violinist Liebeck will provide melodic interludes, featuring pieces by Mozart, Bach and other composers.   The two will team for a violin duet at the close of the lecture, performing some of Einstein’s favorite music. 
  • Wednesday, March 2, 11 a.m. in Argyros Forum 202, Physics Colloquium: “Superstrings” Foster links Einstein’s favorite instrument, the violin, with some of his best-known foundation discoveries in physics.   This will lead to a discussion of current “String Theory” or “Superstrings,” which predicts that the universe has extra hidden dimensions of space that may be laid out in the form of “strings” – and how that analogy can be easier to understand when demonstrated acoustically on the strings of a violin. 
  • Thursday, March 3 at 7:30 p.m. in Salmon Recital Hall, Finale Recital: Jack Liebeck, violin and Louise Thomas, piano. Liebeck and his recital partner, Chapman University piano professor Louise Thomas, perform together.

Catch a glimpse of Liebeck’s and Foster’s program in this video.

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