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The University of Southampton
Lifelong Learning

Einstein’s Universe Study Day Event

10:00 - 16:00
5 March 2016
Avenue Campus Highfield Road Southampton SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this event, please email Lifelong Learning at .

Event details

We will be holding a one-day cultural event on Saturday 5 March 2016 consisting of a series of short talks led by experts from Southampton.

Almost exactly 100 years ago, a young Albert Einstein was spending his spare time putting the finishing touches on a new theory of gravity.This theory, known as General Relativity, revolutionised our understanding of space and time and propelled Einstein from Swiss patent clerk to scientific icon. Einstein’s theory challenges our intuition in many ways; clocks can grind to a halt and matter can collapse to form black holes that warp space into regions from which nothing can escape. These ideas have stimulated science and fiction for decades, most recently in the blockbuster movie Interstellar. This study day will explore the ideas behind the theory and discuss many of the exciting questions that continue to challenge researchers; Was Einstein right? What happens if you fall into a black hole? Can you build a time machine?


Provisional Programme


10:00 Coffee

10:10 Welcome

10:15 Einstein’s warped space theory

Professor Nils Andersson, University of Southampton 

Just over 100 years ago, Albert Einstein completed his General Theory of Relativity. He made space and time flexible and explained gravity as due to the curvature of the combined space-time. The observation of the predicted light-bending during a solar eclipse a few years later made Einstein a scientific superstar. This talk introduces the main ideas of the theory, discusses various experimental tests and introduces new phenomena that shed light on the dark side of the universe.

11:00 Einstein on Mount Wilson: relativity and the expanding universe

Professor Kendrick Oliver, University of Southampton 

In early 1931, Albert Einstein arrived for a two-month stay in Pasadena, California. Situated only a few miles away from Hollywood, Pasadena was used to the proximity of celebrity, but it thrilled to have Einstein in its midst. Einstein’s visit seemed to affirm the region’s claim to be the ‘Athens of the West’ – a great centre of learning as well as cultural production. Einstein had been drawn to Pasadena by the growing intellectual stature of the California Institute of Technology and the pioneering astronomical work of the Mount Wilson Observatory. During his visit, he accepted for the first time the compatibility of relativity with the observations of galactic redshift made by Mount Wilson’s Edwin Hubble, which appeared to support the concept of an expanding universe. This lecture explores the significance of Einstein’s visit for both scientific cosmology and the experience of modernity in Southern California.

11:30 Coffee

11:45 Gravitational waves: a new window on the Universe

Dr Ian Jones, University of Southampton 

In 1916, Einstein realised that his theory of General Relativity predicted the existence of gravitational waves, small ripples in gravity that travel at the speed of light. In February this year, one hundred years later, this outstanding prediction of Relativity was verified in spectacular style, with the announcement of the detection of gravitational waves from two colliding black holes. In this talk, I will describe how this amazing discovery was made, and how the new field of gravitational wave astronomy promises to open up a new window on the Universe.

12:30 Lunch

13:30 Quantum aspects of Einstein’s Universe

Dr Marco Caldarelli, University of Southampton 

Einstein’s theory of General Relativity is spectacularly successful at explaining gravity on the scales of planets and galaxies. However, when dealing with the very small it must match to another very successful theory – quantum mechanics. In this talk I will explain why we don’t believe a black hole is truly “black”, how the quantum theory can change our ideas of the universe as a whole, and where there’s completely new physics to investigate.

14:30 Coffee

14:45 Time Travel and Causality in Einstein’s Theory

Professor James Vickers, University of Southampton 

General Relativity glues together space and time and allows us to take seriously the possibility of time travel. We will look at how everyday concepts such as “time”, “past”, and “future” appear in Einstein’s theory, to see that even as “time” depends on the observer, the notion of the past, future, and causality all still make sense. We will also see that some solutions of Einstein’s theory do allow for time travel, and look at the arguments around whether these solutions make sense.

15:45 Questions and Discussions

16:00 End of Day

Please note that this is a provisional programme and is therefore subject to change.



£40 full rate (£30 Loyalty Scheme price*)

£25 loyalty rate (Harbour Lights Members, Friends of Parkes, English Teachers Network, U3A members, university staff and alumni)

£12.50 discount rate (students/sixth form & college students and those in receipt of income-based Job Seeker's Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Council Tax or Housing Benefit)

All prices include lunch and refreshments

*The Loyalty Scheme price is available for those paying the full rate, once you have purchased one study day at full price (£40) you are then entitled to pay £30 for other study days during the academic year. Please select this option in the Online Store but please note you can not use the Loyalty Scheme to pay for other guests.


Booking is completed through the Online Store, please click here to book your place.

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