Annual Faculty Lecture Series to Continue with William Wootters

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: Noelle.Lemoine@williams.edu

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., February 14, 2013—The third talk in this year’s Faculty Lecture Series will be presented by William Wootters, Barclay Jermain Professor of Natural Philosophy at Williams College, on Thursday, Feb. 21. The lecture, titled “Why Does Nature Like the Square Root of Negative One?” will take place at 4:15 p.m. in Wege Auditorium, Thompson Chemistry. A reception will follow in Schow Atrium. The event is free and open to the public.

Wootters’ talk will deal with the importance of the square root of negative one—the imaginary number i—in quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics, while a probabilistic theory, does not arrive at its probabilities in any conventional way. Rather, it uses a framework expressed fundamentally in the terms of the imaginary number i, yielding a probability expressed as an ordinary, real number.  The lecture will focus specifically on this mind-boggling aspect of quantum mechanical theory.

Wootters has taught at Williams since 1982. His areas of expertise include quantum information theory and quantum foundations. Wootters proved the no cloning theorem in a joint paper with Wojciech H. Zurek. He has published numerous journal articles. He was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society in 1999. In 2012, Thomson Reuters named Wootters a “Citation Laureate,” a title given based on analysis of citations. In addition to the usual courses in the physics curriculum, he co-teaches a course on coding and cryptography.

Wootters received his B.A. from Stanford University in 1973 and his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 1980.

The Faculty Lecture Series will continue on Feb. 28 with Mérida Rúa, associate professor of Latino/a studies. Her lecture is titled “A Grounded Identidad: Making New Lives in Chicago’s Puerto Rican Neighborhoods.”

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