News for faculty and staff

Contact | Past Issues

Week of February 1, 2010

String theory, wooly mammoths on tap for Saturday Morning Physics

By Nicole Casal Moore
News Service and
Jillian Bogater

This term, speakers in the Saturday Morning Physics (SMP) series will tackle a wide range of thought-provoking topics including climate change, energy technology and string theory.

The Celebration of the Museum theme semester continues, with talks about mammoths and evolutionary biology.

A U-M tradition since 1995, this lecture series lets scientists discuss their work in easy-to-understand terms. The lectures include multimedia presentations, hands-on demonstrations, slides, videos and computer simulations.

“Several factors make the Saturday Morning Physics talk series very popular,” says Carol Rabuck, coordinator for the lecture series. “We schedule a variety of world-renowned lecturers who speak in non-technical terms about issues relevant to the society in which we live. It’s a place where people in the community can gather on a consistent basis and question scientists about those issues that matter to them.”

SMP’s popularity also is due to how the talks are geared not only for U-M students but for all age groups, Rabuck says. It can be a family activity as well as extra credit for students. The audience members range from about 8 to 80 years old.

The talks take place from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Saturdays, Feb. 6-April 17 in Rooms 170 and 182, Dennison Building, 500 Church St. Refreshments are served before the lectures. Question-and-answer sessions follow.

The schedule includes:

Feb. 6

The Oldest Hominoids: Locomotor & Dietary Variation in Our Ape Ancestors: Laura MacLatchy, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology

Feb. 13

Hurricanes and Tornados and Floods! Oh, My! What’s Climate Got to Do With This? Perry Samson, associate chair and professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, & Space Sciences

Feb. 20

Light and Semiconductor Devices: Vanessa Sih, assistant professor in the Department of Physics

March 13

Black Holes and Chaos in String Theory: Leo Pando Zayas, associate professor in the Department of Physics

March 20

Plastics — Can They Be Used to Save the Planet? Stephen Forrest, professor in the Department of Physics and vice president for research at U-M

March 27

The Inside Story on Lyuba, a Baby Woolly Mammoth from Siberia: Daniel Fisher, Claude W Hibbard Collegiate Professor of Paleontology

April 10

Solar to Chemical Energy Storage: Prospects for Artificial Photosynthesis: Stephen Maldonado, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry

April 17

Beyond Fossil Fuels: Options and Challenges: Levi Thompson, the Richard E. Balzhiser Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering and professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering

Series sponsors include the Department of Physics, the M. Lois Tiffany Endowment, the Hideko Tomozawa Endowment and gifts from friends of the program.

For more information go to



Teresa Herzog Mourad, on her favorite part of her job: “I am constantly inspired by changes people make in their alcohol-related attitudes and behaviors.”