Department Colloquia

Does Protective Measurement Tell us Anything about Quantum Reality?

Speaker: 
Amit Hagar, Indiana University, History & Philosophy of Science department
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2014-02-13 16:00 - 17:00
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Robert Raussendorf, Bill Unruh, Philip Stamp
Intended Audience: 
Graduate
An analysis of the two routes through which one may disentangle a quantum system from a measuring apparatus, hence protect the state vector of a single quantum system, reveals that the argument from protected measurement to the reality of the state vector of a single quantum system is circular. Lessons on the available "interpretations" of quantum theory and on the debate on the quantum measurement problem are drawn from this negative result.

The Landscape Problem of Frustrated Magnetism: Has Compelling Experimental Evidence for Order-by-Disorder at Last Been Found?

Speaker: 
Michel Gingras Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Waterloo
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2014-01-23 16:00 - 17:00
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Marcel Franz
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
In some magnetic systems, known as frustrated magnets, the lattice geometry or the competition between different spin-spin interactions can lead to a sub-exponentially large number of accidentally degenerate classical ground states, or false vacuua, and thus a sort of landscape problem for condensed matter physicists. Order-by-disorder (OdD) is a concept of central importance in the field of frustrated magnetism.

How to Find the Needle in the Haystack: Variable Star Lightcurve Classification Techniques

Speaker: 
Andy Becker, University of Washington
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2013-12-05 16:00 - 17:00
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Robert Raussendorf
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
Large area surveys such as LSST promise to monitor the variability of billions of stars through repeated imaging, with observations spread across many years and multiple passbands. To fully realize the potential of these data, models for lightcurve classification must be developed that allow inference in spite of data complexity and sparsity. These models must have the flexibility to capture both the prosaic and the novel, and allow users to distinguish one from the other; this capability does not yet exist in a general tool.

Driving Topology, Hunting Majoranas

Speaker: 
Tami Pereg-Barnea, McGill
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2014-03-27 16:00 - 17:00
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Marcel Franz
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
The study of topology in condensed matter is a rapidly growing field. Recent activity ranges from classifying the possible topological systems to first principles calculations of real materials. In this talk I will use a simple language to introduce the subject and survey some recent developments. In the first part of my talk I will present different ways in which a topologically trivial system can be driven into a topological phase. In the second part I will discuss the possibility of observing Majorana fermions in topological superconductors.

Not of this Earth: the advent of neutrino astronomy

Speaker: 
Darren Grant, University of Alberta
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2014-03-13 16:00 - 17:00
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Robert Raussendorf
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
Scientists have created the world's largest neutrino telescope, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, in one of the planets most extreme environments at South Pole Station Antarctica. Instrumenting more than a Gigaton of ice, the observatory is designed to detect interactions of the highest energy neutrinos expected to be produced in the Universe's most violent astrophysical processes. With IceCube's recent announcement of the first detection of a diffuse flux of high-energy neutrinos (30 TeV to more than a PeV) of extraterrestrial origin a new window to study the Universe was opened.

Gas and Star Formation in Nearby Galaxies: New Results From the Herschel Space Observatory

Speaker: 
Christine Wilson, McMaster University
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2014-03-06 16:00 - 17:00
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Ingrid Stairs
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
The availability of new instruments and telescopes is making it possible to study large, well-selected samples of nearby galaxies at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths. These observations trace the cold, dense gas and dust which is the fuel for star formation. I will discuss new results from the Herschel Space Observatory from the Very Nearby Galaxies Survey, which aims to observe the closest example of each major class of galaxy with all the photometric and spectroscopic modes that Herschel has available.

Nanomechanical Response of Bacteria to Antimicrobials: A Pressing Issue

Speaker: 
John Dutcher, University of Guelph
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2014-01-16 16:00 - 17:00
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Carl Michal
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
Bacteria are microorganisms that have evolved over 3.5 billion years and are responsible for a wide range of phenomena in the world around us, ranging from causing diseases to helping to digest food to shaping the surface and sub-surface of the Earth. Despite great advances in the control of bacterial infections that have been achieved through the use of natural and synthetic antimicrobials, overuse of these compounds has allowed many bacteria to adapt, and this has led to the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant “superbugs”.

Quantum Annealing and the D-Wave devices

Speaker: 
Matthias Troyer, ETH Zurich
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2014-01-09 16:00 - 17:00
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Marcel Franz, Robert Raussendorf
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
Quantum annealing - a finite temperature version of the quantum adiabatic algorithm - combines the classical technology of slow thermal cooling with quantum mechanical tunneling, to try to bring a physical system faster towards its ground state. D-Wave systems has recently built and sold programmable devices that are designed to use this effect to find solutions to hard optimization problems. I will present results of experiments designed to shed light on crucial questions about these controversial devices: are these devices quantum or classical? Are they faster than classical devices?

Is “interactive” teaching sufficient to promote conceptual development in physics?

Speaker: 
Paula Heron, University of Washington
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2013-11-28 16:00 - 17:00
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Louis Deslauriers, Jim Carolan
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
Over the past few decades, systematic research has shown that many physics students express essentially the same (incorrect) ideas both before and after instruction. It is frequently assumed that these ideas can be identified by research and then addressed through “interactive” teaching approaches such as hands-on activities and small-group collaborative work. In many classrooms, incorrect ideas are elicited, their inadequacy is exposed, and students are guided in reconciling their prior knowledge with the formal concepts of the discipline.

Topological Materials at the Nanoscale

Speaker: 
Jenny Hoffman, Harvard
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2013-11-21 16:00 - 17:00
Location: 
Hennings 201
Local Contact: 
Marcel Franz
Intended Audience: 
Undergraduate
Once or twice per decade, the discovery of a new class of electronic materials takes the world by storm, generating thousands of scientific publications per year, and broad hopes for practical applications. In this category are the so-called “topological materials” – typically insulators hosting topologically protected metallic surface states whose strongly coupled spin and momentum degrees of freedom have prompted numerous proposals for nanoscale devices.
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