Past Department Colloquia

Thu, 2014-03-13 16:00 - 17:00
Darren Grant, University of Alberta
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.
Thu, 2014-03-06 16:00 - 17:00
Christine Wilson, McMaster University
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.
Thu, 2014-02-27 16:00 - 17:00
Walter Hardy, UBC
This talk will be partly an update on the status of the ALPHA experiment at CERN, a collaboration of about 40 scientists, more than 1/3 from Canada, and partly a look back at how and why a condensed matter experimenter like myself got involved with antihydrogen research. ALPHA stands for Antihydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus: the goal is to compare the properties of H to H-bar with the highest possible precision, looking for any differences that might shed light on why the universe is made of matter and not antimatter.
Thu, 2014-02-13 16:00 - 17:00
Amit Hagar, Indiana University, History & Philosophy of Science department
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.
Thu, 2014-02-06 16:00 - 17:00
Michael Landry (LIGO observatory), for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (or LIGO for short) will detect gravitational waves with second-generation interferometers. At the two observatory sites (Hanford WA and Livingston LA), we have been installing Advanced LIGO detectors since Oct 2010, and are nearing completion.
Thu, 2014-01-30 16:00 - 17:00
David Hanna, McGill University
Gamma-ray astronomy at energies above 100 GeV is a young science where particle physics mixes with astrophysics. In addition to studying high-energy objects such as supernova remnants and active galactic nuclei, researchers look for evidence of dark-matter particle annihilation and violation of Lorentz invariance. Detection of gamma rays from distant sources makes use of Cherenkov light generated by relativistic electrons and positrons in air showers caused by the impact of these gamma rays on the upper atmosphere.
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.
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