Where do revolutionary discoveries and world-changing ideas come from?
Well, it turns out that at least some of them have come from right here in Chicago.
A new series of short videos from the University of Chicago aims to highlight the role its researchers and scientists have played in transforming our understanding of the world, and indeed the cosmos.
The series is called “The Day Tomorrow Began” and will also feature podcasts and written stories to help tell the story of innovative ideas and discoveries.
“There’s a tremendous belief that universities should and do play a role in helping drive innovations and breakthroughs that really reshape our world,” says Paul Rand, the university’s vice president of communications.
But at a time of financial hardship for many, Rand says higher education often draws criticism for political reasons.
“We really thought of this as a way to not only highlight the university, but to remind people of the impact that research universities, particularly the University of Chicago, are having,” Rand says.
Rand also points out that the world needs innovative thinkers now more than ever.
“I think there’s a growing belief that some of the biggest problems facing the world we’re going to look to universities to help science get out of some of these problems,” he said.
Black holes are the first topic covered, and in particular the role of Indian-American scientist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar in paving the way for their discovery.
In 1931, at just 19 years old, Chandrasekhar was the first person to calculate that stars would collapse in on themselves at the end of their lives. And if the star had enough mass, it would create a black hole in which the pull of gravity would be so strong that not even light could escape.
Initially his ideas were ridiculed.
“Black holes were controversial and remained controversial for quite some time because they are such radical extreme objects that physics in a sense fails,” says Daniel Holz, a professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. “They really shouldn’t exist, but they do. And so, at the time, even people like Einstein were saying that this is probably an oddity of theory, but they don’t exist in nature.”
Eventually, Chandrasekhar was proven right and he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983.
The second topic covered in the series focuses on the role of James Henry Breasted and the Oriental Institute in rewriting the history of the origins of Western civilization.
Considered by many to be the real-life inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones, Breasted carried out massive excavations in what is now Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, Iran and Israel, an area he called “the fertile crescent.” .
Breasted’s discoveries showed that the roots of Western civilization did not develop in Greece or Rome, as previously thought, but in the ancient Middle East.
Future topics to be covered include quantum technology, sleep science, economics, and social work. Read more at: news.uchicago.edu/the-day-tomorrow-began.