I had the privilege of hearing one of the best scientific talks I have ever attended.
Nergis Malvalvala, a professor of astrophysics from MIT, held her audience spellbound Saturday as she described “The Warped Side of the Universe” as part of Penn State’s Frontiers of Science annual lecture series for the general public.
In less than an hour, using easy-to-conceptualize real-world analogies, such as “putting a bowling ball on a seat cushion” or likening light waves to extroverts at a party who interact with anyone they happen to meet (as opposed to the “introverted” gravitational waves that don’t interact very much with others), this amazing young woman explained some basic and some quite complex physical and astrophysical concepts involving the measurement of light waves and gravitational waves, identifying black holes and the behavior of neutron stars and pulsars.
She accomplished this extraordinary feat like a skilled magician, keeping up a steady stream of casual conversation, cracking occasional jokes and periodically making sure the audience was following the story so that she could pull the rabbit out of the hat while we weren’t looking.
I wish she had been my high school physics teacher. I might have become an astronaut!
The topic of this year’s lecture series is 100 Years after Einstein’s Theory of Relativity: New Science from General Relativity. The lectures in this free, public mini-course are recorded and can be accessed at science.psu.edu/news-and-events/frontiers.