Course Instructor: Jay White
In the earliest years of the 20th century, Albert Einstein brooded on the seemingly inviolable notions of absolute space and time, while Pablo Picasso dealt with similar questions as he brought to life his beautifully grotesque Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. And while Picasso delivered the splintered imagery of cubism, Einstein dismantled and rebuilt the world into one made of the flexible fabric of spacetime. In this Seminar, we will dwell in the world left for us by Einstein and consider how a century of thought about the nature of the "Universe" has taken us from a point at which we believed our cosmos to be infinitely old and infinitely large to one in which we believe ours is likely but one universe among many in a grand multiverse. Our discussions will take us into the realm of the special and general theories of relativity, into galleries of ideas regarding how humans attempt to capture the world mathematically and artistically, fully into a quantum interpretation of reality as an amalgam of collapsed wave functions, and ultimately into a chamber filled with the mysteries of Dark Energy and multiple dimensions. Along the way we will consider the apparently "special" nature of our universe via the so-called Anthropic Principle, explore the question of why our universe seems "just right" for our existence, and ask whether such qualities and characteristics of our universe are manifest in other equally "special" universes-if, indeed, other special universes can and do exist. Finally, we will consider what might be the fate of our universe and what effects, if any, its demise might have on the multiverse. Readings might include Edwin Abbott's Flatland, Arthur I. Miller's Einstein, Picasso: Space, Time, and the Beauty That Causes Havoc, Ronald Clark's biography of Einstein, and Alex Vilenkin's Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes.