Past Department Colloquia

Thu, 2013-10-17 16:00 - 17:00
Douglas Scott, UBC
The Planck satellite, designed to comprehensively map the microwave sky in 9 frequency bands, was launched in 2009 and returned the first major cosmology results earlier this year. I will describe the experiment, indicate what we have learned about the Universe so far, and discuss what might come from results from the full Planck mission.
Thu, 2013-10-10 16:00
Shoucheng Zhang, Stanford
Recently, a new class of topological states has been theoretically predicted and experimentally observed. The topological insulators have an insulating gap in the bulk, but have topologically protected edge or surface states due to the time reversal symmetry. Similarly, topological superconductors or superfluids have novel edge or surface states consisting of Majorana fermions.
Thu, 2013-10-03 16:00 - 17:00
Joe Polchinski, UCSB
Thought experiments have played an important role in figuring out the laws of physics. For the unification of quantum mechanics and gravity, where the phenomena take place in extreme regimes, they are even more crucial. Hawking’s 1976 paper “Breakdown of Predictability in Gravitational Collapse” presented one of the great thought experiments in the history of physics, arguing that black holes destroy information in a way that requires a modification of the laws of quantum mechanics.
Thu, 2013-09-26 16:00 - 17:00
Phil Bucksbaum
The natural time scale for internal motion in atoms and small molecules is dictated by their Angstrom sizes and Rydberg binding energies to be femtoseconds or shorter. The binding fields for the outermost electrons are tens of volts per Angstrom. I will describe recent experiments designed to measure the interaction of atoms and molecules with laser fields on these scales of time and field strength.
Thu, 2013-09-19 16:00 - 17:00
Chris Stubbs, Harvard
The discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe, driven by "Dark Energy", is an indication that our understanding of fundamental physics is incomplete. In particular, the Dark Energy mystery lies at the intersection of gravity and quantum mechanics where we have trouble knitting together a consistent theoretical picture. In some ways our current situation is similar to the circumstances before the advent of quantum mechanics, with experimental results that don't fit into our existing theoretical framework.
Thu, 2013-09-12 16:00 - 17:00
Alan W.P. Poon, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
The discovery of the neutrino mass has led to the fundamental question of whether neutrinos are their own antiparticles. This Majorana nature of the neutrinos can be discerned if neutrinoless double beta decay is observed. The experimental challenges to observing Majorana neutrinos --- from the acquisition of suitable decaying isotopes to the detection of the rare decay signal (if exists at all) --- are formidable. These challenges are being conquered through the refinement of existing techniques and by new experimental innovations.
Thu, 2013-05-30 16:00 - 17:00
Gora Shlyapnikov, Universiteit van Amsterdam
I will give a brief overview of recent studies of dipolar quantum gases - gases of atoms with a large magnetic moment or gases of polar molecules aligned by an applied electric field. In these gases particles interact with each other via long-range anisotropic dipolar forces which drastically change the nature of quantum degenerate regimes. I will demonstrate possibilities for obtaining a topological superfluid p+ip phase for fermionic polar molecules in 2 dimensions.
Thu, 2013-04-18 16:00 - 17:00
Matt Strassler
The recent discovery at the Large Hadron Collider of a new particle, most likely a Higgs boson, marks a turning point in our investigation of elementary particles. I will give an overview of the discovery itself, and describe how, assuming it really is a Higgs boson, it impacts the deep questions that we face in trying to make sense of the confusing world that we inhabit. In particular, I will describe the next phase of the Large Hadron Collider program, and consider the long-term implications of what we might learn during that period.
Thu, 2013-03-28 16:00 - 17:00
Gil Refael, Caltech
Majorana states have been tantalizing us for many years due to their mysterious and unusual properties. Originally, Etore Majorana proposed them as a particle that is its own anti-particle. More recently it was realized by Kitaev that due to their non-Abelian exchange statistics, they could form the foundation for topologically protected quantum computers. In my talk I will describe some of the unique properties of Majorana states, how to utilize them, and how to realize them in the most simple way.
Thu, 2013-03-21 16:00 - 17:00
Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute
Despite its extraordinary complexity and diversity, many of Life's most fundamental and complex phenomena, whether cells or cities, scale with size in a surprisingly simple and universal fashion. For example, metabolic rate scales approximately as the 3/4-power of mass over 27 orders of magnitude from complex molecules to multicellular organisms. Time-scales (such as lifespans and growth-rates) and sizes (such as genome lengths and RNA densities) scale with exponents which are typically simple multiples of 1/4.
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