PASADENA— Scientists, students, and science fans will raise a beaker of liquid air on Wednesday, October 29, to toast the 75th anniversary of the Watson Lectures at Caltech. The public is invited to attend the lecture, which will be held in Beckman Auditorium at 8 p.m.
Guest lecturers for the 75th anniversary program are David Goodstein, a professor of physics and vice provost at Caltech, and Judith R. Goodstein, who is Caltech archivist and a faculty associate in history. The Goodsteins are co-authors of last year's best-selling book Feynman's Lost Lecture.
The Goodsteins have titled the lecture "Earnest Watson and the Amazing Liquid–Air Show" to commemorate the late Caltech physicist who launched the lectures in 1922.
Watson years later said he started the weekly demonstration lectures at Caltech because he felt the school's course in physics problems was dull. The lectures were actually started in 1919 for the campus community, but the construction of the Bridge Laboratory of Physics three years later provided sufficient space for the public to be invited.
The liquid–air lecture is especially appropriate because Watson himself opened Beckman Auditorium in 1964 with his famous liquid–air demonstration. Beckman Auditorium was designed, in fact, with the public lectures in mind.
The October 29 Watson Lecture is the first of the 1997–98 series, which will feature three other lectures during the fall–winter season. On November 5, Caltech astronomy and planetary science professor Shrinivas Kulkarni will discuss gamma–ray bursts. Kulkarni is a member of the team that demonstrated earlier this year that gamma–ray bursts are extragalactic in origin, thus settling a 30-year debate about the nature of the cosmos.
On November 19, Donna Shirley, manager of the Mars Exploration Program, is scheduled to speak on "Touching Mars." Shirley will discuss findings of the Pathfinder and Sojourner missions, and will also outline upcoming probes to the Red Planet. Shirley is based at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed by Caltech.
The final fall–winter Watson Lecture is set for January 14, 1998, when Bruce Murray will talk about the World Wide Web and its likely impact on the 21st century. Murray, a professor of planetary science and geology at Caltech, works with other Caltech personnel and personnel from Rand and the World Resources Institute on a project called "Hyperforum," a novel means for deliberative discourse about complex issues using the Web.
All lectures are held on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. in Beckman Auditorium, which is located on campus near Michigan Avenue south of Del Mar Boulevard. Admission is free, and the public is welcome.