If you are a group of 25 people or more from a school, library or museum, you can ask one of our speakers to come give a public talk.
Browse our list of topics, then e-mail or call us to arrange for the speaker to come give the talk at your institution.
We will cover travel costs to most locations in the Greater Toronto Area.
Most talks last about 30 minutes plus and should allow for an extra 15 minutes for questions.
Please note that all our public talks rely on a video projector unless explicitly noted. We can provide these, but you will need to book a room, and depending on its size, a microphone and loudspeakers.
See some of our speakers in action
Watch Dr. Nick Law give a public talk called “Taking the Twinkle out of the Stars: The Rise of Telescopes with Adaptive Optics and Giant Lasers”.
Watch Dr. Suresh Sivanandam give a public talk called “Chasing Stardust with Cool Technology”.
Watch Prof. James Graham give a public talk called “Imaging Planets Beyond our Solar System”.
Browse from our list of topics
Black Holes are like Kinder Surprises
Dr. Johannes Hirn
This talk requires no video projector
Cosmic Music: Astronomy Through the Eyes of the Billboard Hot 100
The passion for astronomy is universal and even plays itself out in music. In this talk, I’ll be looking at tracks from the Billboard Hot 100 and the astronomy concepts they evoke: from general relativity to the birth of stars. Come join us for a whimsical take on North America’s favourite music and Astronomy!
Astronomical Connections: Weaving the Stories of Discovery and the Universe
If there’s one thing that today’s science teaches us, it’s that the stories of the Universe are dramatically interconnected in unexpected ways. From the most powerful explosions in the galaxy to following the stars across the Atlantic, join us for a journey across space and time, exploring the connections throughout the Universe.
Under the Midnight Sun: The Adventure of Astronomy from Antarctica
Juan Diego Soler
In the coldest and driest place on Earth, scientists, adventurers, explorers, penguins and seals meet to observe the Universe. But why do astronomers love Antarctica so much? What kind of adventures and exciting observations do they experience in this unexplored land?
Join us to hear the story of BLAST-Pol, the balloon-borne telescope successfully launched this past December from Antarctica, and of the group of U of T students who worked on it.
Quantum Mechanics & Relativity
STRAIGHT: Lines and their History from Euclides to Einstein
Dr. Johannes Hirn
It's About Time: A Journey Through Time in Physics
Time is a widely discussed concept in science, both because it is difficult and fascinating. It underlies all our everyday experiences and we often don’t stop to think about what it really means. In this talk, we shall explore time as viewed by some of the greatest physicists, from Aristotle to Einstein. Along the way, we’ll have to reevaluate how we view time. We’ll learn that time is relative and that it is inextricably linked to space. We’ll also explore why eggs don’t unbreak themselves, and that black holes can make time slow down. We’ll conclude with the (im?)possibility of time travel, and the idea of time paradoxes.
Particle Physics & String Theory
Extra Dimensions According to Mr. Bean
Dr. Johannes Hirn
This talk requires no video projector
CLOSE: From the Slap of a Hand to Infinities in Elementary Particle Collisions
Dr. Johannes Hirn
Black Holes Don't Suck
Black holes are perceived as the most strange and mysterious objects in the universe. They represent the most extreme incarnation of the gravitational force, and they challenge our conceptions of space and time. But perhaps what makes them the most mysterious is the way they are portrayed in popular culture and science fiction. They are monstrous holes in the sky with incredible sucking power, beacons of time travel, and gateways to another dimension or even another universe. Or are they? Drawing upon popular culture for examples of bad black hole physics, I will discuss what science actually has to say about black holes, and what is pure science fiction. We will discover that black holes are, in reality, fairly simple objects.
The Big Controversy Over the Big Bang: Science, the Catholic Church, and the Origin of It All
The Big Bang, along with evolution and anthropogenic climate change, is one of the most controversial and poorly understood Big Ideas in science. Like many Big Ideas, the Big Bang seems pretty simple on the surface, but it is actually a very subtle and complex idea. It is easily misunderstood, even by scientists. In this talk, I will discuss the origins of the Big Bang theory, its most essential features, and the evidence which supports it. I will also attempt to dispel the common misunderstanding that the Big Bang cannot be reconciled with popular religious conceptions of the origin of the Universe. I will do so by tracing the Big Bang theory to its origins among the Catholic clergy and even further back through a long history of Christian thinkers. I will attempt to show that the common perception that science and religion are diametrically opposed isn’t supported by historical fact. I will, in a sense, try to “unteach the controversy”. Ample opportunity will be provided for questions and discussion, both during and after the talk.
Exoplanets and Extra-Terrestrial Life
A Crash Course in Astrobiology
Astrobiology is a field in which it is often difficult to separate the real science from the nonsense. This talk intends to lay down some basics about life beyond that on our planet Earth. Could life exist outside of Earth? How about somewhere else in our Solar System? In our Galaxy? What about extraterrestrial life can we expect to determine with certainty in the next few years? In our lifetimes? This talk plans to answer these questions and more.
Taking the Twinkle out of the Stars: The Rise of Telescopes with Adaptive Optics and Giant Lasers
Stars twinkle because turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere — heat haze — gets between our eyes and the stars. The same thing happens when we look through telescopes — the atmosphere blurs the heavens, making them as much as 100 times fuzzier than they should be. Astronomers don’t like that, and have come up with a bunch of different ways of improving the situation, some of which are now in use by amateur and professional astronomers alike. These techniques offer us some of our best chances to directly see extrasolar planets, and are in very active development. I will particularly focus on the Robo-AO system we are building in California, which involves attaching a giant laser to a large robot and using it to make artificial stars.
Chasing Stardust with Cool Technology
Humans often don’t realize that they can sense more than visible light. They feel infrared radiation as heat, which is also another form of light. Over the past few decades, there has been an explosion of technological innovation in the detection of infrared light. This has opened up huge discovery spaces in astronomy. It has enabled us to peer into the centre of our Milky Way and see the effects of the supermassive black hole. We are now able to take pictures of planets in nearby solar systems. Stardust in galaxies also lights up in the infrared, allowing us to track the evolution of galaxies from very early times. The technology required to detect infrared light is quite unique and presents difficult engineering challenges. I will present an overview of the great new discoveries in infrared astronomy and the associated technological breakthroughs that have ushered in this new and exciting era of astronomy.
Imaging Planets Beyond our Solar System
For most of human history, planets were mysterious points of light that wandered among the fixed stars. With the discovery of the astronomical telescope by Galileo it became possible to see that planets are other worlds. The last few years have seen a revolution in the study of planets because we now have detections of hundreds of planetary systems. These detections are indirect, based on observation of the parent star (eclipses or changes in velocity that betray orbital motion.) The next step in this adventure is to see these planets directly. Direct detection is exceedingly hard, for example Jupiter is about a billion times fainter than our Sun. I will describe the first glimpses of extrasolar planets themselves allowed by new technologies.
2012: From Garbled Science to Death from the Skies
The end of the Mayan Calendar! Galactic alignment! Mysterious planets! Deadly solar radiation! Geomagnetic reversal! The End of the World!
Popular doomsday scenarios predict the world will end December 21, 2012. There was even a disaster movie released earlier this year that capitalized on the fear surrounding 2012. This talk will explain why you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet, especially if it sounds scientific but comes from a questionable source. I will review the most popular 2012 scenarios, why the astronomy behind them is confused, and what that says about how most people believe the universe works.