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Source: Dean Zollman, 785-532-1619, dzollman@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Beth Bohn, 785-532-6415, bbohn@k-state.edu

Thursday, April 15, 2010

INTERNATIONALLY KNOWN MATHEMATICAL PHYSICS EXPERT CARL BENDER TO GIVE PRESENTATION IN K-STATE'S PETERSON PUBLIC LECTURE SERIES IN PHYSICS

MANHATTAN -- Carl Bender, an internationally known leader in mathematical physics, will be the speaker for the spring 2010 presentation in Kansas State University's Peterson Public Lecture Series in Physics.

Bender's lecture, "In the Complex World Classical Mechanics and Quantum Mechanics are Very Much Alike," will be at 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 27, in Hale Library's Hemisphere Room. The lecture is free and the public is invited. The talk will be presented at an elementary, popular science level.

Bender is the Wilfred R. and Ann Lee Konneker Distinguished Professor of Physics at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. He specializes in the application of asymptotic analysis, differential-equation theory and complex-variable methods to quantum mechanics and elementary particle physics.

Classical mechanics and quantum mechanics are two very different theories. Bender says in classical mechanics, the motion of a particle is governed by Newton's laws and physicists know exactly where the particle is and how fast it is going at all times. In quantum mechanics, though, particles display wavelike properties and predictions of where the particle is and how fast it is going are probabilistic. That means the energy of a quantum particle in a potential can only take on a discrete set of allowed quantized values, he said.

Taking their cue from mathematicians, who many years ago generalized the real number system to the complex number system and were able to understand and explain the real number system more clearly, physicists like Bender are doing a similar generalization with classical and quantum mechanics.

"In this talk, I will show what happens when we generalize ordinary, real classical mechanics to complex classical mechanics," he said. "We will see that despite the enormous differences between classical mechanics and quantum mechanics in the real world, these differences melt away in the complex world and these two theories behave in an eerily similar fashion."

Bender also is professor of physics at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and a visiting professor of applied mathematics and mathematical physics at Imperial College in London. He has received numerous honors for his work, including being named a Fellow of the American Physical Society, Academy of Science of St. Louis and the Institute of Physics, United Kingdom.

Bender is editor-in-chief of Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and General, and serves on the editorial boards of other prestigious journals. He has been the principal investigator of a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy since 1977, and has also received funding from the National Science Foundation. He also is the co-author of the textbook, "Advanced Mathematical Methods for Scientists and Engineers."

The Peterson Public Lecture Series in Physics was endowed by Chester Peterson Jr., Lindsborg, who earned two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree from K-State. He founded the lecture series to serve as a catalyst to interest everyone in the fascinating world of modern physics.