Dr Mario Livio is a senior astrophysicist at the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute, and the Head of the Institute’s Office of Public Outreach. He joined the Institute in 1991 as head of the Archive Branch, and also served as the Head of the Institute’s Science Division. Prior to coming to the Institute, he completed his undergraduate studies (majoring in physics and mathematics) at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, his M.Sc. degree (in theoretical particle physics) at the Weizmann Institute, and his Ph.D. (in theoretical astrophysics) at Tel-Aviv University. He was a professor of physics in the physics department of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology from 1981 until 1991.
Mario came to his career in physics via a long and winding path. As Mario himself writes: “I was born in 1945 in Romania. When I was a few months old, both my parents had to flee Romania for political reasons, and I was left with my grandparents until the age of 5. In 1950, most Romanian Jews were pressured to leave, and I immigrated with my grandparents to Israel.”
A love for astrophysics somehow emerged and persisted, with a special interest in the accretion of mass by black holes, neutron stars, and white dwarfs. In the past decade, Mario focused particularly on the topics of supernova explosions and their use in cosmology to determine the rate of expansion of the Universe, on the nature of “dark energy”, on the formation of black holes and the possibility to extract energy from them, on the formation of planets in disks around young stars, and on the emergence of intelligent life in the Universe. Mario has published over 400 scientific papers.
In addition to his scientific interests, Mario is a self-proclaimed ‘art fanatic’ who owns many hundreds of art books. During the past few years, he combined his passions for science and art in three popular books: “The Accelerating Universe” (appeared in 2000), which discusses the ‘beauty’ of fundamental theories of the Universe, “The Golden Ratio” (appeared in 2002), which tells the story of an astonishing number, and “The Equation That Couldn’t Be Solved” (appeared in September 2005), which is the first extensive popular account of Group Theory – the language of symmetry. His new book, “Is God A Mathematician?” is about to appear in January 2009. The book discusses the question of why mathematics is as powerful as it is, in describing things ranging from the laws of nature to the properties of ordinary knots. Dr Livio lectures very frequently to the public. He has given more than 20 full-day seminars to the public at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C, and numerous lectures at venues such a the Hayden Planetarium in New York, The Maryland Institute College of Art, The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, The Glasgow Planetarium, and many more.
He is also interviewed often in the media, including two appearances on “60 Minutes.” Livio’s book “The Golden Ratio” won him the “Peano Prize” for 2003, and the “International Pythagoras Prize” for 2004, as the best popular book on mathematics.