Colloquia / Seminars
Colloquia are held Monday afternoons in 265 Phillips Hall at 4:00pm. Tea and coffee are served at the speaker’s reception in the Chapman meeting area, 3:30pm. The student Questions and Answers will be held in Phillips 277 after the colloquium from 5:15-6:00pm.
“Nuclear physics for beyond-the-Standard-Model searches”
Martin Hoferichter, University of Washington
Precision measurements of low-energy observables can provide constraints on physics beyond the Standard Model that are complementary to direct searches at the energy frontier, often extending the sensitivity to scales not directly accessible at high-energy colliders. However, in order to unambiguously establish anomalies that signal departures from the Standard Model or at least extract limits on the New-Physics parameter space, calculations of the relevant low-energy nuclear physics with controlled uncertainties, in terms of hadronic corrections or nuclear matrix elements, are becoming increasingly important. In the talk, this interplay between nuclear and particle physics will be discussed in the context of the anomalous magnetic moment of the muon, direct-detection searches for dark matter, and lepton flavor violation.
“Energy Landscape Theory: From Folding Proteins to Folding Chromosomes”
Peter Wolynes, Rice University
The statistical mechanics of energy landscapes has resolved the paradoxes of how information-bearing matter can assemble itself spontaneously. I will explain how our current understanding of protein folding landscapes not only leads to successful schemes for predicting protein structure from sequence but also has given quantitative insight into how folding and function shape molecular evolution. While protein folding is, in the main, thermodynamically controlled and not kinetically limited, longer structures in the cell can assemble in a kinetically controlled, non-equilibrium fashion. Nevertheless, I will show how energy landscape theory provides tools for extracting from low resolution experimental structural methods and kinetic information about the structure and cooperative dynamics of chromosomes.
“Fundamental Physics with Electroweak Probes of Nuclei”
Saori Pastore, LANL
The past decade has witnessed tremendous progress in the theoretical and computational tools that produce our understanding of nuclei. A number of microscopic calculations of nuclear structure and reactions with photons, electrons and neutrinos have successfully explained experimental data, yielding a complex picture of the way nuclei interact with those particles. This achievement is of great interest from the pure nuclear-physics point of view. But it is of much broader interest too, because the level of accuracy and confidence reached by these calculations opens up the concrete possibility of using nuclei to address open questions in other sub-fields of physics, such as, understanding the fundamental properties of neutrinos, or the particle nature of dark matter. In this talk, I will review recent progress in microscopic calculations of electromagnetic and weak-interaction properties of nuclei, including electromagnetic moments and transitions between low-lying nuclear states, along with studies of single- and double-beta decay rates. I will illustrate the key features required to explain the available experimental data, and present a novel framework to calculate neutrino-nucleus cross sections.
“Exploring beyond the Standard Model with Lattice QCD”
Amy Nicholson, Berkeley
While the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics has been enormously successful in describing the world around us, there still remain many important and unanswered questions requiring Beyond the SM (BSM) physics. One way to experimentally test the fundamental symmetries of the SM in searches for potential violations is to utilize properties of atomic nuclei which enhance these rare events. Connecting experimental signals from nuclear environments to a particular BSM model requires the numerical solution of Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD), a cornerstone of the SM which governs nuclear interactions. In this talk I will discuss the use of Lattice QCD as a tool for numerically calculating matrix elements relevant for experimental BSM searches. I will use neutrinoless double beta decay, which, if observed, offers an explanation for the observed matter-antimatter asymmetry of the universe, as a key example.
“Dark Matter Annihilation in the Gamma-Ray Sky”
Dan Hooper, Fermi Lab
In many models, dark matter particles can undergo self-annihilation, generating gamma-rays and other high-energy particles. One of the missions of the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope is to search for these annihilation products. Over the past several years, Fermi’s data has been shown to contain a spatially extended excess of ~1-3 GeV gamma rays from the region surrounding the Galactic Center, consistent with the signal expected from annihilating dark matter. Recent improvements in the analysis techniques have found this excess to be robust and highly statistically significant, with a spectrum, angular distribution, and overall normalization that is in good agreement with that predicted by simple annihilating dark matter models. I will discuss the characteristics of this signal, and ways to test its origin. In particular, the dwarf galaxies recently discovered by DES provide a potently important tool to test a dark matter origin of the Galactic Center excess.
“Topological Carbon: a New Perspective”
Shengbai Zhang, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Topological physics in solids began with carbon but drifted away due to its exceedingly small spin-orbit coupling (SOC), which is thought to be essential for any observable effect. Here, I will discuss a different topological classification within carbon that is above the spin degree of freedom, has no need for the SOC, and hence can be observed at any reasonable temperature. It is based on the orbital symmetry, namely, that of the p_z orbital of a sp^2 carbon. Both spin and orbit are angular degrees of freedoms and both effects may be viewed as a result of (spherical)-symmetry breaking – in the former by SOC whereas in the latter by the formation of sp^2-bonded carbon network. First-principles calculations reveal similarities in their silent and often exotic physical properties.
“What is quantum mechanics? A minimal formulation”
Pierre Hohenberg, NYU
This talk asks why the interpretation of quantum mechanics, in contrast to classical mechanics, remains a subject of controversy. I shall present a ‘minimal formulation’ modeled on the formulation of classical mechanics. In both cases the formulation is ‘microscopic’, by which I mean applicable to any closed system with an arbitrary number of degrees of freedom. Starting from the sole assumption of a ‘Hilbert space ontology’, it is argued that all the usual features of quantum mechanics follow essentially inevitably, thus providing the sought after minimal formulation. The so-called ‘measurement problem’ is briefly discussed and claimed to be resolved. The usual questions and controversies over ‘interpretations’ of quantum mechanics can then be treated by ‘macroscopic quantum mechanics’ as an application of the more general microscopic theory and not part of the foundational formulation.
“Nanoscale Magnetic Imaging using Quantum Defects in Diamond”
Ronald Walsworth, Harvard University
Nitrogen vacancy (NV) color centers are quantum defects in diamond that provide an unpar-alleled combination of magnetic field sensitivity and spatial resolution in a room-temperature solid, with wide-ranging applications in both the physical and life sciences. NV centers can be brought into few nanometer proximity of magnetic field sources of interest while maintain-ing long NV electronic spin coherence times, a large (~Bohr magneton) Zeeman shift of the NV spin states, and optical preparation and readout of the NV spin. Recent applications of NV-diamond magnetometry include magnetic imaging of living cells, single proton MRI, sin-gle protein NMR, mapping magnetic signatures in >4 billion-year-old meteorites and early-Earth rocks, magnetic sensing of single neuron action potentials, and characterizing advanced materials such as spin torque oscillators. I will provide an overview of this technology and its applications.
“Title to be Announced”
Jonathan Baugh, University of Waterloo
Abstract to be announced
“A research-validated approach to transforming upper-division physics courses.”
Steve Pollock, University of Colorado Boulder
At most universities, upper-division physics courses are taught using a traditional lecture approach that does not make use of many of the instructional techniques that have been found to improve student learning at the introductory level. At CU, we are transforming upper-division courses (E&M, Quantum, and Classical Mechanics) using principles of active engagement and learning theory, guided by the results of observations, interviews, and analysis of student work. I will outline these reforms including consensus learning goals, clicker questions, tutorials, modified homeworks, and more, as an example of what a transformed upper-division course can look like, and as a tool to offer insights into student difficulties in advanced undergraduate topics. We have examined the effectiveness of these reforms relative to traditional courses, based on grades, interviews, and attitudinal and conceptual surveys. Our results suggest that it is valuable to further investigate how physics is taught at the upper-division, and how education research may be applied in this context.
“Breaking Through Exoplanetary Atmospheres”
Mercedes Lopez-Morales, CFA, Harvard
In the past two decades we have gone from only knowing about the planets in our own Solar System to discovering thousands of planets orbiting around other stars. We have not only discovered that planets abound, but also that most planetary systems do not resemble our own. One of the next steps in the field of exoplanets is to study their atmospheres and to answer questions such as: do the physical properties of gas giant exoplanets resemble those of the Solar System
“Title to be Announced”
Jonathan Celli, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Abstract to be Announced