2007 AMS Levi L. Conant Prize Recipient
THE SHAPE OF SPACE
When we look out on a clear night, the universe seems infinite. Yet this infinity might be an illusion. During the first half of the presentation, computer games will introduce the concept of a “multiconnected universe.”
Interactive 3D graphics will then take the viewer on a tour of several possible shapes for space. Finally, we'll see how recent satellite data provide tantalizing clues to the true shape of our universe.
The only prerequisites for this talk are curiosity and imagination. Middle school and high school students, people interested in astronomy, and all members of the WPI community are welcome to attend.
Jeffrey Weeks, an independent scholar residing in New York state, has received the 2007 AMS Levi L. Conant Prize for his article "The Poincaré Dodecahedral Space and the Mystery of the Missing Fluctuations," Notices of the AMS, June/July 2004.
In this article, together with an earlier one, "Measuring the Space of the Universe" (Notices, December 1998), co-authored with Neil Cornish, Weeks explains how extremely sensitive measurements of microwave radiation across the sky provide information about the origins and shape of the universe. Weeks discusses what kind of shape our universe could have. The three possibilities are a spherical universe, a Euclidean universe, or a universe that is a hyperbolic 3-manifold.
"Weeks has explained the mathematics behind models whose validity cosmologists debate while waiting for more experimental evidence... Weeks has given a rare glimpse into the role of mathematics in the development and testing of physical theories," the prize citation says.
In 1999 Weeks was awarded a MacArthur "genius" fellowship and now works as a freelance mathematician. He is well known for his geometry and topology software, as well as for his work in cosmology.