Students fundraise for prominent physicist visit

SPS Group Picture.jpg

UAF Society of Physics Students as they met National Physics Society President DJ Wagner, at the 2016 Quadrennial Physics Congress in San Francisco. From left to right: Alison Giffoni, Khan Overcast, Amir Raz, Riley Troyer, Georgie Heaverley, Harrison Hartle, DJ Wagner, Chris Eckerson, Caleb Gordon, Sean Counihan, Chris Peters. Image courtesy of Georgie Heaverley.

The UAF Chapter of the Society of Physics Students is hosting a fundraiser to bring renowned physicist Lawrence Krauss to Fairbanks to give a public talk at UAF in early March.

Speaking fees for Krauss normally fall within the range of $20,000 – $30,000, according to the All American Speakers Bureau. However, for this event, he was willing to forego his speaking fee, but asked the club to pay for his travel expenses and help arrange a trip for him and his wife to visit northern Alaska to see polar bears, according to the fundraiser page.

At the time of writing the fundraiser has raised $970 of its $3,000 goal.

“He actually has a new book coming out … it’s about the nature of reality and why we’re here and the physics behind that,” Troyer said about what the lecture might be about. “We’re going to ask him to give a lecture that would be approachable for the general audience.”

Krauss is Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space, as well as the director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. The Origins Project is an initiative created to study the origins of the universe and life. Krauss has written several books and over 300 scientific papers.

“Krauss is a little unique in the fact that he is a high-end physicist … and he’s also an excellent communicator,” Riley Troyer, vice president of the club, said. “Being able to do high-level research and explain it well to someone who doesn’t have science knowledge is really awesome.”

The dates for the public lecture would likely be the evening of March 2 or March 3, according to Troyer.

“The big goal would be to offer a big inspiration for people … to explore the subject more and to become more informed about [physics],” Troyer said. “As physics students, we get a lot of joy out of studying this stuff and we think it’s pretty cool to learn about the universe and how it works. We’d like to share that joy with others.

The Society of Physics Students helps students in their discipline as well as volunteers for physics and other science-related community outreach events.

“The outreach especially with the youth — judging the science fairs is really fun,” Georgie Heaverley, president of the club, said about why she liked being in the club. “It’s great to see that love of science at that young age and to hope that they carry it through to the rest of their life.”

In addition to judging school science fairs, the club has set up physics demos at the annual Science Potpourri event. Last semester, they held a star-gazing party and are planning another one this spring semester.

“A few years ago the SPS at UAF was just a handful of members and our organization has grown to about 15 people,” Heaverley said. “We’ve been able to do so much more because of the interest that I think is gaining in physics and I think that’s just something that has been really motivating in itself … anyone who has a genuine interest in physics is welcome to contact us and get involved.”

The club has plans to work with the Geophysical Institute and the Art Department to create a to-scale solar system walk on campus.

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