'Chaos in Our Solar System' is topic of Feb. 21 talk

University Park, Pa. -- Peter Goldreich, a professor in the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., will present "Chaos in Our Solar System," from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Feb. 21 in 100 Thomas Building on Penn State's University Park campus. The event is a Penn State component of the International Year of Astronomy and is the fifth of six lectures in the 2009 Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science, a free minicourse for the general public with the theme "Our Universe: From the Big Bang to Life." No registration is required.

"Chaos is fascinating because it frustrates our ability to predict the future based on the present conditions in dynamic systems, such as the weather," said Goldreich. During his lecture, Goldreich will use movies, demonstrations and meteorites to reveal the frontiers of scientific understanding about the origin of chaos in the climate variations on Mars, the unpredictable orbits of objects in space, and the path of meteorites from the asteroid belt to Earth.

Goldreich is widely regarded as one of the most prominent theoretical astrophysicists of our time. His research program is an attempt to understand the physical mechanisms that underlie natural phenomena observed throughout the universe. His work has provided fundamental theoretical insights for understanding the rotation of planets, the dynamics of Saturn's rings, the electrodynamics of pulsars, the operation of astrophysical masers, the formation of spiral arms of galaxies, the excitation of the oscillations of the Sun and white-dwarf stars, and the nature of astrophysical turbulence. His investigations of how planets form, migrate and evolve are of great importance to the understanding of newly discovered planetary systems around other stars.

Goldreich earned a bachelor's degree in engineering physics in 1960 and a doctoral degree in physics in 1963, both at Cornell University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Cambridge University before joining the faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles in 1964 as an assistant professor of astronomy and geophysics. He joined the faculty of planetary science and astronomy at the California Institute of Technology in 1966, becoming emeritus Lee A. DuBridge professor of astrophysics and planetary physics there in 2003. Also in 2003, he began his current position as a professor in the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Goldreich was elected a member of the U. S. National Academy of Sciences in 1972 and a foreign member of the Royal Society of the United Kingdom in 2004. Among his many other awards are the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship of the American Astronomical Society in 1979, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1993, the U.S. National Medal of Science in 1995, the Grande Medaille of the French Academy of Sciences in 2006, and the Shaw Prize in 2007.

The Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science are a program of the Penn State Eberly College of Science. For more information or access assistance, contact the Eberly College of Science Office of Media Relations and Public Information at science@psu.edu or (814) 863-0901. Information also is available at http://www.science.psu.edu/alert/frontiers/ online.

Last Updated November 18, 2010