The Universe Tonight

Jul 2, 2011 6:00pm
Institute of Astronomy

Dr. Paul Coleman

The Fractal Universe


Many examples of fractal geometry are seen in the field of Astronomy, from nearby objects such as our Sun, to phenomena at intermediate length scales in our Galaxy such as the distribution of masers.  This talk will introduce fractal concepts, give many examples of fractals on various length scales in the universe, and finally concentrate on the largest scales which can be probed in our universe - analyses of locations of galaxies.

Using data taken with telescopes on Mauna Kea and Haleakala, Dr. Coleman will explain how the fractal geometry of the cosmos gives a different view of galaxy formation and the nature of spacetime itself.  Would you like to re-shape your cosmic perspective?


Speaker Bio:

Paul H.I. Coleman, (Native Hawaiian) Astrophysicist/Specialist, University of Hawai`i's Institute for Astronomy (IFA)

In the early seventies, Paul Henry Ikaika Coleman left his birthplace in Hawai`i to attend the University of Notre Dame.  There he obtained a B.S. in physics and began an almost 30-year journey throughout the world before returning to Hawai`i to live in 2002. In graduate school, Paul studied philosophy and physics, decided to major in physics, and earned both the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Astrophysics from the University of Pittsburgh. He was supported in graduate school by a Zacheus Daniels fellowship - awarded for promising astrophysical research.  He also received a university award for excellence in teaching. For the last two years of his thesis research, he was appointed to a junior research associate position with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia.

From there, Paul accepted a visiting assistant professorship for a year at Virginia Tech and then moved to a position as a postdoctoral research associate with the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute in The Netherlands. After his post-doc he stayed in The Netherlands on staff at the institute and also took a two-year position with the Sterrewacht (Observatory) in Leiden. He and his wife Dianne remained in The Netherlands for eight years. Upon returning to the US, Paul took an assistant professorship at New Mexico Tech for two years. He was then invited to work at Yale for a year with Benoit Mandelbrot, the originator of fractal mathematics. From there, Paul and his family moved to Puerto Rico, where he was an associate professor for four years. He was an adjunct staff member of the Arecibo Radio Telescope and was also the NASA space grant affiliate for the Rio Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico.

Finally, Paul came full circle and was hired as an associate astronomer at the Institute for Astronomy, a research unit at the University of Hawai`i. Paul teaches introductory astronomy on the Manoa campus. He is also the project scientist on the Faulkes Telescope North, the world's largest telescope dedicated to K-12 students in England and the state of Hawai`i. He is a member of the University's Kuali`i Council, a body of Native Hawaiian professors, instructors, and graduate students at the Manoa campus.

Since returning home, Paul has become more involved in Native issues and is trying to play catch-up with cultural concerns. As a Native Hawaiian, he is a natural role model for kids in Hawaii. He attends career days all over the islands and is part of the Institute's new outreach program. Paul is a member of several advisory councils aimed at increasing the number of children in science and technology fields. Paul hopes to increase Native Hawaiian involvement at all levels in the excellent astronomy effort in Hawai`i. In what little spare time he has, he enjoys playing with his two beautiful daughters, Hali`a and Nohea.



On the first Saturday of each month, the Visitor Information Station (VIS) hosts The Universe Tonight, a special presentation on the current research and discoveries occurring on Mauna Kea. The presentation begins at 6:00 PM and is followed by the regular evening stargazing program at the VIS.

The Universe Tonight typically features an astronomer from one of the observatories on Mauna Kea giving a presentation on recent observations and discoveries from their telescope. Observatories are on a rotating schedule. If you would like to know about upcoming presentations, please call the VIS at (808) 961-2180 during operational hours.

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