University of Chicago Series Highlights How School’s Scholars Have Changed the World

Where do breakthrough discoveries and world-changing ideas come from?

Well, it turns out that at least some of them have come from right here in Chicago.

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A new series of video shorts from the University of Chicago aims to highlight the role its researchers and scientists have played in transforming our understanding of the world — and indeed the cosmos.

The series is called “The Day Tomorrow Began” and will also feature podcasts and written stories to help tell the story of groundbreaking ideas and discoveries.

“There’s a tremendous belief that universities need to play, and do play, a role in helping drive innovations and breakthroughs that really reshape our world,” says Paul Rand, vice president for communications at the university  

But at a time of financial hardship for many, Rand says higher education often draws criticism for politically motivated reasons.

“We really thought about this as a way to not only highlight the university, but to remind people of the impact that’s coming out of research universities, particularly the University of Chicago,” says Rand.

Rand also notes that the world needs innovative thinkers now more than ever.

“I think there’s an increasing belief that some of the biggest problems the world is facing we’re going to look to universities to help science our way out of some of these problems,” he said.

Black holes are the first topic covered, and in particular the role of Indian-American scientist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar in paving the way for their discovery.

In 1931 at the age of just 19, Chandrasekhar was the first person to calculate that stars would ultimately collapse in on themselves at the end of their lives. And if the star had enough mass, it would create a black hole in which the pull of gravity would be so intense that not even light could escape.

Initially his ideas were ridiculed.

“Black holes were controversial and remained controversial for quite some time because they are such radical extreme objects where physics in some sense breaks down,” says Daniel Holz, professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. “Really they shouldn’t exist, but they do. And so at the time even people like Einstein were saying this is probably an oddity of the theory but that they don’t exist in nature.”

Ultimately, Chandrasekhar was proven right and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983.

The second topic covered in the series focuses on the role of James Henry Breasted and the Oriental Institute in rewriting the history of the origins of Western civilization.

Breasted, believed by many to be the real-life inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones, carried out massive excavations across modern-day Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, Iran and Israel – an area he dubbed “the fertile crescent.”

Breasted’s discoveries showed that the roots of Western civilization developed not in Greece or Rome as had been previously thought but in the ancient Middle East.

Future topics to be covered include quantum technology, the science of sleep, economics and social work. Read more at:

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