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Uwe Bergmann Demystifies X-Rays

Superman's x-ray vision allowed him to see through walls, tree trunks and Lois Lane's overcoat—but truth is far more fascinating than fiction. X-rays that obey the laws of physics have revolutionized science and medicine, allowing the visualization of proteins, chemical reactions and ancient mathematical texts.

This winter, explore the science and applications of this fascinating form of light with Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL) Senior Staff Scientist Uwe Bergmann. Bergmann will be teaching a Stanford Continuing Studies five-week course called "The World Under X-ray Vision," beginning on January 9, 2008.

"I'd like to introduce how we can use x-rays to learn about the world, and in particular about nature," said Bergmann. "I want to keep it very general, and it doesn't require any special background in the sciences."

Bergmann has worked with x-ray imaging since 1990 and is currently developing novel synchrotron based x-ray techniques. This will be his first Continuing Studies course, although he taught as a graduate student and gave a Cantor Arts Center public lecture last year. "I'm quite excited about the course," he remarked. "I've always liked the idea of giving lectures to general audiences."

In the first lecture, Bergmann will discuss important features of electromagnetic radiation, focusing on the famous "double slit" experiment, which demonstrated the baffling wave-particle duality of light. "That experiment is very important," Bergmann noted. "It really gives you an idea about the nature of light, and also about the conceptual difficulties one has when dealing with light."

Over the four lectures that follow, Bergmann will continue to illuminate the incredible properties of x-rays and delve into comprehensive examples of their applications—from visualizing the structure of water molecules to analyzing the fossilized remains of dinosaurs.

Stanford staff may use STAP funds for any Continuing Studies course, and students, faculty and persons over 65 receive a 20% discount. For information on the class and to sign up, visit the Continuing Studies website.

Elizabeth Buchen, SLAC Today, December 11, 2007