Past Department Colloquia

Thu, 2015-03-12 15:30 - 16:30
Bianca Dittrich, Perimeter Institute
Modern physics rests on two basic frameworks, quantum theory and general relativity. Quantum gravity aims to unify these two frameworks into one consistent theory. One can expect that such a formulation delivers in particular an understanding of space time as a quantum object. I will give an introduction to some basic concepts in quantum gravity research and possible models of quantum space time.
Thu, 2015-02-26 15:30 - 16:30
Doug Arion, Carthage College
Studying physics (or any other subject…) because you love it is great. There are many and diverse career paths available to those who study physics, and we ‘sell’ physics to prospective students based on this. Unfortunately, there are skills, knowledge, and attitudes that physics education, by itself, doesn’t typically provide to prepare students for the real world that they will enter – no matter what that career path may be.
Thu, 2015-02-12 15:30 - 16:30
Jonathan Bagger, TRIUMF
Since 1971, theoretical physicists have been mesmerized by supersymmetry. There is no doubt that it is a beautiful concept that has proven to be a powerful mathematical tool. But with the LHC about to restart at full energy, it is time to ask where supersymmetry stands today. Is it realized in nature? What are its prospects for discovery at the LHC? And if it is not found, what does it mean for physics?
Thu, 2015-02-05 15:30 - 16:30
Clifford Will, University of Florida
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.
Thu, 2015-01-29 15:30 - 16:30
Shamit Kachru, Stanford University
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.
Thu, 2015-01-22 15:30 - 16:30
Marcel Franz, UBC
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.
Thu, 2015-01-15 15:30 - 16:30
Misao Sasaki, University of Kyoto, Japan
The scenario of open inflation once popular in the 1990's was abandoned when the WMAP team announced in 2003 that our Universe is almost flat. However, as the precision of observational data has increased, the possibility to test the present curvature parameter of Omega_K~0.01-0.001 has become not unrealistic. I argue that open inflation can explain some of recent cosmological data better than others, and it may be a new window to the physics of the Universe at or even before inflation.
Thu, 2014-11-27 16:00 - 17:00
Peter Palffy-Muhoray, Kent State University
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.
Thu, 2014-11-20 16:00 - 17:00
Witold Nazarewicz, Michigan State University/ORNL
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.
Thu, 2014-11-13 16:00 - 17:00
Doug Bonn, UBC
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.
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