Past Department Colloquia

Thu, 2014-01-23 16:00 - 17:00
Michel Gingras Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Waterloo
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.
Thu, 2014-01-16 16:00 - 17:00
John Dutcher, University of Guelph
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”.
Thu, 2014-01-09 16:00 - 17:00
Matthias Troyer, ETH Zurich
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?
Thu, 2013-12-05 16:00 - 17:00
Andy Becker, University of Washington
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.
Thu, 2013-11-28 16:00 - 17:00
Paula Heron, University of Washington
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.
Thu, 2013-11-21 16:00 - 17:00
Jenny Hoffman, Harvard
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.
Thu, 2013-11-14 16:00 - 17:00
Paul Goldbart, Georgia Tech
Abstract: Launched before the atomic hypothesis held sway, the conventional theory of elasticity is a spectacular intellectual achievement. A continuum-level theory, it furnishes scientists and engineers with a powerful, internally consistent toolkit for determining how architecturally simple (i.e., regular) solid media such as crystals respond macroscopically to imposed stresses, whilst encoding the underlying microscopic details of the atomic realm economically, via a handful of numerical parameters.
Thu, 2013-11-07 16:00 - 17:00
Dan Stamper-Kurn, Berkeley
With quantum gases, one can explore magnetic ordering and dynamics in regimes inaccessible in solid-state systems. For example, in degenerate spinor Bose gases, magnetization of the atomic spin is established parasitically along with Bose-Einstein condensation, allowing minute spin-dependent energies to dictate the magnetic ordering of the gas. In addition, the extreme isolation of the atomic system allows for systems to created far out of equilibrium, allowing the dynamics of symmetry breaking to probed in real time.
Thu, 2013-10-31 16:00 - 17:00
Neil Turok, Perimeter Institute
One of the most basic but intriguing properties of quantum systems is their ability to `tunnel' between configurations which are classically disconnected. That is, processes which are classically not just slow, but impossible, become possible. In this talk I will outline a new, elementary approach to quantum tunneling which emphasizes that the dominant classical trajectory is usually complex, i.e., includes an imaginary part rather than being purely real.
Thu, 2013-10-24 16:00 - 17:00
Eugene Demler, Harvard
The probabilistic character of measurement processes is one of the most fascinating aspects of quantum mechanics. In many-body systems quantum noise can reveal the non-local correlations and multiparticle entanglement in the underlying states. In this talk I will review recent theoretical and experimental progress in applications of the quantum noise analysis to the study of many body states of ultracold atoms.
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