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July 13, 2014

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Astrophysics Event Was 50 Years in the Making

UT Dallas to Host Experts in Field Created at University Gathering in 1963

Sitting around a Dallas swimming pool in the summer of 1963, a handful of Texas scientists hatched a plan to hold a scientific conference that would highlight new research in the combined fields of relativity and astrophysics.

They even created a new scientific discipline to attract attendees from around the world: Relativistic astrophysics was born.

In 1963, the discipline centered on quasars, enigmatic phenomena that had recently been discovered to be the most powerful sources of energy in the universe. Today, the field encompasses a broad range of research areas associated with the origin, evolution and structure of the cosmos, such as black holes, gravitational waves, colliding galaxies, exploding stars and the mysterious dark matter and dark energy that comprise 95 percent of the universe.

27th Texas Symposium Logo

More than 400 experts on cosmology and astrophysics will attend the event hosted by UT Dallas.

One of the instigators of that first Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics, as it came to be called, was professor emeritus of mathematical sciences Ivor Robinson. He was then head of the mathematics and mathematical physics division at the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest/Southwest Center for Advanced Studies, the precursor institution to The University of Texas at Dallas.

That first international conference was so successful that it has since been held about every two years at sites around the world, retaining the name Texas Symposium regardless of location.

From Dec. 8-13, UT Dallas will once again play host to more than 400 of the world’s leading experts in cosmology and astrophysics at the 27th Texas Symposium, held in downtown Dallas.

Dr. Wolfgang Rindler

Dr. Wolfgang Rindler

“We will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the symposium by looking back on the history of relativistic astrophysics while kicking off the next 50 years of undoubtedly remarkable discoveries,” said Dr. Wolfgang Rindler, professor of physics at UT Dallas. An expert in relativity, Rindler was a faculty member at the Graduate Research Center in 1963 and took part in the first Texas Symposium. Today, he’s co-chair of the 50th anniversary meeting, along with Dr. Mustapha Ishak, associate professor of physics and head of the cosmology research group at UT Dallas.

“We designed a diverse scientific program that covers over 50 current topics in astrophysics, including recent breakthroughs and advances in the field,” said Ishak, whose expertise includes cosmological models and cosmic acceleration.

Dr. Mustapha Ishak

Dr. Mustapha Ishak

In addition to the scientific presentations, which require attendees to register and pay a fee, the symposium will present a free public event at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at UT Dallas featuring Dr. Edward “Rocky” Kolb, a cosmologist and award-winning science educator.

A special feature of the symposium will be a roundtable of veteran scientists that will include some of the original participants from the 1963 event. They will reflect on the circumstances that led to the first Texas Symposium and the subsequent impact on the development of these disciplines. Dr. Donald Salisbury, professor of physics at Austin College, organized the roundtable, which will be held Dec. 11 at UT Dallas.

The scientific talks at the 27th Texas Symposium will feature Nobel Prize winners and other distinguished scientists who will discuss the latest findings on many “hot topics” in astrophysics, Rindler said.

The sessions will cover areas such as galaxy evolution and supermassive black holes; pulsars and neutron stars; high-energy astrophysics; cosmological implications of the Higgs particle; and tests of general relativity. Presentations also will include updates from ongoing and future experiments, such as Planck, NuSTAR and Pan-STARRS.

“The large number of distinguished scientists that are attending the symposium reflects the attention that the UT Dallas cosmology group has drawn within the national and international astrophysics community,” Ishak said.

Media Contact: Amanda Siegfried, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4335, amanda.siegfried@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu


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