Benson Lecture presented by astronomy editor and enthusiast David Eicher

Written by Remi Boleky, CAS communications intern

"Let's hear it for physics!"

David J. Eicher in 2010 This was a frequent joke that was used by Astronomy magazine chief editor David Eicher to get laughter and applause from faculty and students for the duration of the Department of Physics' Benson Lecture on April 12.

As one of the most widely recognized astronomy enthusiasts in the world, Eicher was the latest distinguished speaker invited to Miami to give the Benson Lecture, which this year marked its 50th anniversary. The lecture is held in honor of former Miami student George C. Benson to show the interdisciplinary relationship of physics to other fields of human aspiration.

"When we look for Benson lecturers, we always try to find speakers with somewhat popular topics, and astronomy or astrophysics are always high on the list," said chair and professor of physics Herbert Jaeger. "Eicher had this going for himself, but then there is also the local connection: he grew up in Oxford and has a somewhat unusual career for a physics student who made it big in science publishing. All of this contributed for us to ask him to deliver this year's lecture."

For 50 years now, Miami has brought many distinguished speakers, including Nobel Laureates, to cover a range of topics for the Benson Lecture. Eicher's talk was based upon a summary of the huge amount of exciting progress in astronomy made during the past couple decades.

Eicher began his talk with the evolution of astronomy to the practice that it is today, acknowledging Galileo as the one who is credited for revolutionizing science.

"He became a superstar in modern empirical science," he said.

Eicher explained that the last 10 years have shown a particularly strong surge of astronomical knowledge that has finally being able to address some big questions — such as the age, size, and fate of the universe, origin of life on Earth, and much more.

He then dove into much of the scientific facts that astronomy has answered, including the history of the universe as a timeline.

Topics he touched upon during his lecture included the formation of the moon, the Big Bang theory, the period when Earth and the sun are estimated to end, the idea of an infinite universe, and questions regarding the history of the universe.

Eicher ended his talk with one of the biggest unanswered questions from mainstream society — are there aliens?

Assistant professor of physics E. Carlo Samson said that he was curious to hear from Eicher, knowing his reputation as a good speaker.

"I am not as a familiar with the topic of astronomy, so it is definitely interesting to hear it from someone as dignified as Eicher," Samson said.

Eicher ended his presentation with an encouraging thought.

"It is definitely the most exciting time to be interested in astronomy," he told his audience.

The next Benson Lecture will be held in spring 2019.