How the Universe Measures Up

Tuesday, September 19, 2006 - 17:00

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From light-years to femtoseconds to 11-dimensional vibrating strings – our understanding of the universe is completely dependent on measurement.  As any scientist will tell you, “to measure is to know.”

Discover the tiniest intervals of time that can be accurately measured (and you thought your shorts were brief!), and why the newest atomic clocks make 10-billionith of a second look imprecise.  An astronomer explains why new measures of the distance to galaxies show that the universe is actually bigger than we thought.  And, is string theory – the hottest physics ticket in town – close to unraveling? According to Columbia University mathematician Peter Woit, hunting for miniscule vibrating strings is a colossal waste of time.  Plus, why the metric system flopped as a U.S. import. 


  • Peter Woit, mathematician at Columbia University and author of Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Continuing Challenge to Unify the Laws of Physics
  • Ken Alder, professor of history at Northwestern University and the author of The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error That Transformed the World
  • Scott Diddams, physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Kris Stanek, professor of astronomy at Ohio State University