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2015 LaFollette Lecture: Professor Dennis Krause

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During a passionate, personal, and inspiring 36th Charles D. LaFollette Lecture in the Humanities, Professor of Physics Dennis Krause delivered the wonders of the “fantastic and wonderfully different” quantum world to the doorstep of his fellow professors in theology, philosophy, literature, art, classics, music, and theater.

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LaFollette Professor of the Humanities and Professor of Theater Dwight Watson welcomed Gary LaFollette, son of Charles D. LaFollette, back to campus.

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Gary LaFollette described his father's affection for his alma mater: 'Few men loved Wabash as much, none loved it more.'

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Last year's LaFollette Lecture and Associate Professor of English Agata Szczeszak-Brewer introduced Krause: 'Dennis embodies the liberal arts' mission to place science in the context of the humanities (and the other way around). His work in theoretical physics and his interest in the humanities are seamless, productive, and fascinating.'

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'While I’m honored to be first physicist to give the LaFollette Lecture, I actually believe I’m the second physical scientist to speak, following Paul McKinney who gave the thirteenth LaFollette Lecture in 1992,' Krause said. 'It shouldn’t be surprising to note that I’ll be speaking on some of the same things he discussed over 20 years ago since the problems of the quantum remain as fascinating now as then.'

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'I do what I do not just because it (hopefully) provides insight about the world—I also do it because it is fun!'

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Pacing the Salter Hall stage with an excitement sparked when he was a Minnesota farm boy reading Isaac Asimov’s description of neutrinos, Krause said, '“It doesn’t matter how beautiful and elegant the equations may be, if they fail to describe the world, they must be discarded. In physics, theories must work.”

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'The underlying theme of this talk is that there is a natural desire of humans to tell stories. This is true in science as well as in the humanities. What makes quantum mechanics hard to understand is that it is not allowing us to tell a story.'

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'In fact, Nature seems to be preventing us from telling a story of what is happening in the quantum realm.'

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This is how science is really done. After the fact, when we have figured everything out, we polish the story so everything appears logical and almost inevitable, but that isn’t really the case. This is why it is so important to support student research and creative work so students can actually see how the things we teach were discovered or created. They can then realize that they, too, can do this.

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We are living in a quantum world, but the machinery (if there even is machinery!) is hidden away.

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Scientists have a way of delivering memorable LaFollette Lectures. Biologist/poet Robert Petty gave us 'the margins of the humanities,' ecologist David Krohne 'the geography of hope,' and Krause 'the quantum potential' of the humanities.

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Krause's colleagues applaud his talk.

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During a reception following the talk, Krause posed with long-time mentor, collaborator and Purdue University Professor Ephraim Fischbach.

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President Gregory Hess congratulates Professor Krause.

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Trustee Emeritus Robert Wedgeworth ’59 talks with Krause.

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Professors Matt Weedman and James Makubuya talk with Krause.

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Gary LaFollette talks with Professor Watson.

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LaFollette Professor of the Humanities Dwight Watson listens to LaFollette Professor Emeritus Raymond Williams H’68.

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Following Krause's LaFollette, Wabash trustees adjourned to the Eric Dean Gallery and Professor of Art Doug Calisch's Retro 35 exhibit.

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Trustee Joe Turk H’00 enjoys Professor Calisch's art.