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Second speaker stirs excitement

October 3, 2000

Campus is buzzing with excitement about the second speaker in the McPherson Professorship coming to campus.

MIT Professor Daniel Kleppner, who participated in the invention of the hydrogen laser, will be speaking at the Wharton Center on Wednesday about the impact of quantum physics.

“It’s just whoa, big-time crazy stuff,” said Professor Douglas Luckie, who is one of two professors instructing the new Science Changing Society course, the class the professorship is part of.

“It’s just very interesting, so I’m just really psyched to hear it.”

Kleppner’s lecture is second in a series of five speeches for the McPherson Professorship - a new lecture series made possible this year thanks to a $2 million donation from an anonymous donor.

The professorship is named after MSU President M. Peter McPherson and his wife Joanne, who decided the money should be used to get students interested in understanding science.

And for Luckie, the excitement is just as high as it was when the series’ first speaker, renowned Harvard University Professor Stephen Jay Gould, visited campus last month.

“The reputation with him is similar in that he can make some of this stuff understandable,” Luckie said.

Because Kleppner’s schedule allows him to stay at MSU longer than Gould did, he plans to visit the class both Tuesday and Thursday, Luckie said. Students plan to share their ideas about projects they are working on with Kleppner.

Luckie is not the only one excited about hearing Kleppner. Norman Birge, a physics professor, said while he’s not requiring his students to attend Kleppner’s speech, he’s going to try his best not to miss it.

“He’s a famous guy,” Birge said. “He’s made a lot of big contributions to physics.”

MSU physics Professor Walter Benenson, a faculty collaborator for the professorship, said last week that he was hoping for a good turnout.

Benenson said the public will enjoy the speech because of Kleppner’s knowledge on the topic.

“Quantum mechanics is possibly the most important intellectual discovery of the 20th century,” he said.

“And it’s the basis for all the modern technologies that we have become so used to.”

So far, the professorship has proved to be successful, said Honors College Director Ronald Fisher, one of the professorship’s coordinators.

“I think there’s lot of interest on campus,” he said. “A number of different professors in widely different disciplines are asking their students to attend the lectures.”

So many students showed up to Gould’s speech at the Wharton Center’s Pasant Theatre, that more than 1,000 were turned away.

To accommodate all those interested, Kleppner’s lecture was moved from the Kellogg Center to the Great Hall in the Wharton Center.

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