Celebrated astrophysicist Stephen Hawking gave a lecture — the topic was “Quantum Black Holes,” naturally — at Monday’s conference. Folt delivered opening remarks before Hawking’s speech, according to an announcement from UNC Global.
The conference was “the brainchild” of Laura Mersini-Houghton, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, department chairman Chris Clemens said.
“Mersini-Houghton ... spends her summers in Cambridge, studying cosmology in the same group that Stephen Hawking works in,” Clemens said.
Black holes are a main point of discussion at the conference, which runs through Saturday, Clemens said. Mersini-Houghton, who is still in Stockholm and could not be reached for comment, wrote a controversial paper on the subject in 2014.
“In physics, generally what one does is if there’s a disagreement, you get everyone in the room and you have a workshop and try to work out what’s really going on,” he said.
Mersini-Houghton started planning the conference in May, Clemens said. He estimated she has known Hawking for at least five years.
“She was compelling enough in her argument for such a conference to get all the right people to attend and was able to get Stephen Hawking, her friend, to speak publicly, which he doesn’t do that often,” he said.
Folt said she appreciated Hawking’s listening skills and sense of humor.