Department Colloquia

Quantum critical metals and their instabilities

Speaker: 
Shamit Kachru, Stanford University
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2015-01-29 15:30 - 16:30
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Moshe Rozali
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
The problem of understanding quantum critical metals -- theories of gapless scalars interacting with a Fermi surface -- is arguably at the heart of intriguing physics seen in many materials, including the heavy fermions and the cuprates. Nevertheless, it remains poorly understood. In this colloquium, I will describe in simple language a quantum field theory approach to this class of problems.

Was Einstein Right? A Centennial Assessment

Speaker: 
Clifford Will, University of Florida
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2015-02-05 15:30 - 16:30
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Bill Unruh
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
A century after Einstein’s formulation of general relativity, a remarkably diverse set of precision experiments has established it as the ``standard model’’ for gravitational physics. Yet it might not be the final word. We review the array of measurements that have verified general relativity in the laboratory, in the solar system and in binary pulsars. We then describe some of the opportunities and challenges involved in testing Einstein’s great theory in strong-field regimes, in gravitational waves, and in cosmology.

Ettore Majorana and his strange particles

Speaker: 
Marcel Franz, UBC
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2015-01-22 15:30 - 16:30
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Marcel Franz
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
In 1937 Italian physicist Ettore Majorana predicted the existence of strange fermionic particles that are their own antiparticles. It is possible that neutrinos realize such Majorana fermions but 75 years after the historical prediction the evidence remains inconclusive. In this talk I will describe recent efforts to engineer and observe Majorana fermions in solid state systems which appear to be very close to fruition.

Vignettes from the world of liquid crystals

Speaker: 
Peter Palffy-Muhoray, Kent State University
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2014-11-27 16:00 - 17:00
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Bill Unruh
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
Liquid crystals, discovered some 125 years ago, are orientationally ordered soft materials. Although they have received considerable attention - much of it due to their potential for applications in display devices - they continue to astonish, puzzle and delight. In this talk, I will describe some unusual phenomena in liquid crystalline systems which originate in orientational order. I will discuss ideas about the underlying physics, and indicate intriguing problems that remain unsolved.

The limits of the nuclear landscape

Speaker: 
Witold Nazarewicz, Michigan State University/ORNL
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2014-11-20 16:00 - 17:00
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Tom Mattison
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
Understanding nuclei is a quantum many-body problem of incredible richness and diversity and studies of nuclei address some of the great challenges that are common throughout modern science. Nuclear structure research strives to build a unified and comprehensive microscopic framework in which bulk nuclear properties, nuclear excitations, and nuclear reactions can all be described.

Making Comparisons - A Strategy for Teaching Scientific Reasoning in a First Year lab

Speaker: 
Doug Bonn, UBC
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2014-11-13 16:00 - 17:00
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Doug Bonn
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
For the past 6 years, the PHYS 107/109/ScienceOne labs have served as a testing ground for new approaches to teaching in laboratories. Over time this has evolved into a focus on teaching students widely-applicable data handling skills: especially, understanding uncertainty, statistical tools, and graphical techniques. In the past year we have also targeted students' critical thinking, with a relatively simple framework that asks students to make quantitative comparisons, reflect on those comparisons, and then act on them.

Cosmology with the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS)

Speaker: 
Florian Beutler, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2014-11-06 16:00 - 17:00
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Aaron Boley
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
I will present results from the SDSS-III BOSS-DR11 analysis. In this talk I will focus on the analysis of the power spectrum multipoles, which allows to constrain the expansion of the Universe through Baryon Acoustic Oscillations as well as to measure the growth of structure through redshift-space distortions. Such a measurement can be used to test General Relativity. Our measurements are in some tension with the expectation of GR+LCDM and I will suggest ways in which this tension can be alleviated.

Ubiquity of planets and diversity of planetary systems: Origin and Destiny of multiple super Earths and gas giants.

Speaker: 
Douglas NC Lin, University of California, Santa Cruz
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2014-10-23 16:00 - 17:00
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Harvey Richer
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
Planetary astrophysics is the most rapidly advancing field in the astronomical community today. A census suggests that planets are common and their mass- period distribution is a function of the mass and metallicity of their host stars. The diverse and intriguing kinematic properties of multiple planetary systems are likely to be the direct consequence of both the boundary condition of their natal disks and the long-term evolution of nonlinear dynamical systems.

How to get into that “room at the bottom” of DNA analysis

Speaker: 
Sabrina Leslie, McGill
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2014-10-30 16:00 - 17:00
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Carl Hansen
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
A wide range of life-preserving processes, such as DNA transcription and repair, rely on weak intermolecular interactions and slow dynamics which occur at high concentrations, over long time periods, and often under confinement. Visualizing dynamic processes can present a challenge to fluorescence microscopy, the work horse for resolving biological processes at the molecular scale. To address this challenge, we present new in vitro diagnostics which use tunable and transverse nanoscale confinement to bring biomolecules into crisp view under previously inaccessible conditions.

Reinventing Introductory Physics for Life Scientists (IPLS)

Speaker: 
Edward Redish, University of Maryland
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2014-10-16 16:00 - 17:00
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Doug Bonn, Jim Carolan
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
A two-term class in physics has been a staple of the education of life scientists for many years. At many large universities life-science students have become a dominant element in this course, their numbers surpassing the number of engineers taking physics. In addition, the biology and medical school communities have begun calling for a more sophisticated and biologically oriented curriculum, one stressing the building of generalized scientific competencies and taking a more interdisciplinary perspective.
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