Jefferson Lab announces two Fall Science Series lectures; examine evidence of an ancient supernova, the magic of Harry Potter

Remains of a star going supernova and a physics discussion of the magic found in Harry Potter books are the topics of Jefferson Lab's Fall Science Series. The first presentation, "When Stars Attack!" is Oct. 17 and features Dr. Brian Fields from the University of Illinois. He will explain how he is using radioactive sea sludge as a telescope to dredge up the evidence of a near-Earth supernova explosion.

The lives of the most massive stars unfold in a symphony of fundamental forces and culminate in spectacular and violent supernova explosions, according to Fields, an associate professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. While these events are awesome to observe, they can take a more sinister shade when they occur closer to home, because an explosion inside a certain "minimum safe distance" would pose a grave threat to life on Earth. Fields will show how such events can leave fossil traces, in the form of live radioisotopes in geological samples; then he will present recently discovered evidence that a star exploded near the Earth about 3 million years ago. These data, for the first time, allow sea sediments to be used as a telescope, probing the nuclear reactions occurring deep within massive stars.

Then on Oct. 24, Dr. George Plitnik, professor of physics at Frostburg State University, Maryland, talks about "The Science of Harry Potter." He will examine the magical events in J.K. Rowling's books and explain the basic principles of physics behind them.

The presentations begin at 7 p.m. in Jefferson Lab's CEBAF Center auditorium, located at 12,000 Jefferson Ave., Newport News. The programs are free and open to anyone interested in learning more about science; they last about one hour and include a question and answer period at the end. For security purposes during Science Series events, enter at Jefferson Lab's main entrance (Onnes Dr.). Everyone over 16 is asked to carry a photo ID and security guards may perform ID, bookbag, purse and vehicle checks. For more information, visit

Call 269-5102 for more information.


Jefferson Science Associates, LLC, manages and operates the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, or Jefferson Lab, for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. JSA is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Southeastern Universities Research Association, Inc. (SURA).

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit