2015 Program Listing

 
 

January 24th: "Nuclear Reactions- Where would we be without them?", Professor Joseph Natowitz

After break program starting at 11:00 AM: Mechanics with Dr. Fries

 
 

January 31st:  "The origin of chemical elements in the Universe" , Professor Grigory Rogachev

After break program starting at 11:00 AM: Tour of the Cyclotron Facility

Download permission slip here.


 
 

February 7th: "Touching horizons with lasers at SIBOR" , Professor Hans Schuessler

After break program starting at 11:00 AM: TBD

 
 

February 14th: "How to Measure the Age of the Universe", Professor Lucas Macri

After break program starting at 11:00 AM: Aggieland Saturday and Low Temperature Demos with Dr. Agnolet

 
 

February 21st: "Searching for Dark Matter", Professor Louis Strigari

After break program starting at 11:00 AM: Physics Demos with Dr. Erukhimova

 
 

February 28th: "Unsolved Mysteries of Our Universe" , Professor Nicholas Suntzeff

After break program starting at 11:00 AM: TBD

 
March 7th: "Relativity", Professor Ricardo Eusebi
 

March 7th: "Relativity", Professor Ricardo Eusebi

After break program starting at 11:00 AM: Certificates Award Ceremony

2014 Program Listing

January 18th: "The Higgs Bridge", Professor Roland Allen
 

January 25th:  "Dark Matter and the Big Bang Theory " , Professor David Toback
 

February 1st: "Accelerator-driven nuclear fission to close the nuclear fuel cycle" , Professor Peter McIntyre
 

 

February 8th: "A race to the bottom: properties of materials at low temperatures", Professor Glen Agnolet
 
February 15th: "The Art and Science of Magnetism at Nanoscale, Professor Igor Roshchin
 
February 22nd: "Origin of Chemical Elements in the Universe" , Professor Grigory Rogachev
   

 
March 1st: "How to form the Most Massive Galaxies in the Universe", Professor Kim-Vy Tran
 

 

         
 
 

2013 Program Listing

January 19th: "Particle Accelerators and Detectors", Professor Carl Gagliardi
 
Many different techniques are used to accelerate and detect subatomic particles. In an effort to understand how they work, we will look for them around the home and garden.
January 26th:  "Hunting for the Higgs Boson at the Large Hadron Collider " , Dr. Sinjini Sengupta
 
The Standard Model of Particle Physics has been very successful in describing the physical world around us. All the particles predicted by this model have been experimentally observed one after the other. The last hold out had been the Higgs Boson but this too was finally observed at the Large Hadron Collider last summer. Our story will document the long and exciting journey which led to the discovery of the Higgs Boson.
February 2nd: "Nuclear Physics with Trapped Atoms and Ions" , Professor Dan Melconian
 

Nuclear physics has a long history of helping us understand the world around us since the atomic nucleus was first discovered at the end of the 19th century. I will give a brief outline of the present scope and applications of nuclear physics, talking in a little more detail about how we can use the cool technology of atom-trapping to help us push into the precision-measurement frontier.

February 9th: "Dark Energy: The Universe Out of Control", Professor Nick Suntzeff
 
About five billion years ago, the Universe began a very strange phase of its evolution. We had always thought that after the Big Bang, the Universe would just fly apart, and over time the galaxies would slow down due to gravitation. But instead, we now know the Universe is not slowing down but speeding up. It is as if we threw a ball in the air and instead of slowing down and falling back to Earth, the ball starts to speed up faster and faster and at some point it is going faster than the speed of light. In this talk I will take you through the history of the Universe, and reveal our best guess at what the Future holds.
February 16th: "The Search for Extrasolar Planets", Dr. Jennifer Marshall
 
As of January 1, 2013, 854 planets outside of our solar system have been discovered. I will describe the techniques astronomers use to find these other worlds and what we can learn from them, and discuss the prospects for discovering extraterrestrial life.
February 23rd: "Polarized Light in Nature" , Professor George Kattawar
 

Long before the dawn of man, both terrestrial and marine animals have used polarized light for such things as navigation (employed by the marvelous honeybee), foraging, mating, identification, and survival. We will give examples of the exciting ways these phenomena are used by various organisms. A brief history of the use of polarized light by man and its subsequent use in remote detection of bioaerosols, hidden targets, and even skin cancer will be presented. The latest discovery of the mysterious use of circularly polarized light (used in 3D movie glasses) by the mantis shrimp, with the most sophisticated eye structure in all of nature, will be discussed as well as the use of linear polarization by cephalopods (octopus, squid, and cuttlefish) to aid in their masterful camouflage capabilities.

 
 

Biomedical physics begins with the first Nobel Prize in Physics, given in 1901 to Wilhelm Röntgen for the discovery of X-rays. It now extends to a vast number of techniques, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI, which involves the flipping of nuclear spins with radio frequency magnetic fields), positron emission tomography (PET), nuclear medicine, magnetoencephalography (using SQUIDs, superconducting quantum interference devices) for mapping brain activity, and nanotechnology for imaging and drug delivery. On the theory side, there is the relatively new area of systems biology, which attempts to model the very sophisticated and interactive processes throughout your body, involving many organs and trillions of cells, from the genome in each nucleus to the regions outside the cell membranes. A simple mathematical model will be presented which may be relevant to a potential cure for type 2 diabetes, the most rapidly emerging global health problem. 

2012 Program Listing

January 28th: "Spintronics: From Basic Science to Technology Revolution", Professor Jairo Sinova

 

February 4th:  "What makes the Proton Spin? " , Professor Carl Gagliardi
 

February 11th: "New Magnetic States on Nanoscale Map" , Professor Igor Roshchin
 

 

February 25th: "Nanostructures: a LEGO Box for Physicists", Professor Alexey Belyanin
 
Modern technologies enable physicists and engineers to fabricate tiny structures, in which electrons are confined to a nanometer scale. Such nanostructures are like artificial atoms, but with very unusual properties that can be manipulated on demand. Using these artificial atoms as building blocks, one can build nanoscale transistors, lasers, and other nanodevices that increase the computer power, enable faster internet, and can even be used to diagnose and cure diseases.
March 3rd: "The first 3 Rungs of the Cosmological Distance Ladder", Professor Kevin Krisciunas
  I will show how it is possible to measure your position on the Earth with simple non-technical equipment. That allows one to measure the circumference of the Earth, and hence its radius. That is the first step in determining distances to the Moon and Sun (which I show next). And that is the start of determining distances throughout the whole universe. 
March 24th: "The Age of the Universe and Dark Energy" , Professor Lucas Macri
 

An accurate and precise measurement of the age of the Universe is very important for understanding its ultimate fate, which is dictated by the still unknown nature of dark energy. In this talk I will explain how we determine the age of the Universe by measuring distances to nearby galaxies using Cepheid variables, which are then used to calibrate the luminosity of white dwarf supernovae. I will also review the evidence for the existence of dark energy based on supernovae that took place when the Universe was much younger, as well as from galaxy surveys and the cosmic background radiation. 

 
March 31st: "What's the Matter? Dark Matter!", Professor Teruki Kamon
 

Various astronomical measurements reveal a very mysterious form in the universe, called dark matter. The word "dark" is because we cannot see it by any telescopes. But its existence can be inferred from gravitational effects. It is known that 23% of the universe is made of the dark matter.

Modern theories of particle physics attempt to describe the universe and predict a new particle for the dark matter. The dark matter particles have not yet been detected experimentally. The world's most powerful proton accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), will soon provide millions of millions of proton-proton (pp) collisions. So then, such dark matter particles could be created in the collisions.

We will relate phenomena at a gigantic scale in the universe to the pp collisions at a very small scale (much smaller than a hydrogen atom) and explain why we want to probe the dark matter world. Then we describe how possibly one can discover the dark matter using the LHC data. This will be the beginning of a long journey to understand the interconnection between particle physics and cosmology.

2011 Program Listing

January 29th: "Realtivity versus Common Sense", Professor Ricardo Eusebi

 
Intuition and common-sense are based on every-day activities, but every day activities do not include high velocity moving objects. This talk will describe the realm of the theory of relativity, where things move at very high velocities and were Nature defies our intuition and common-sense perception. The talk does not focuses on the historical aspect of the theory, but rather on the logical reasoning behind it and on the interesting experiments which are the pilars of the theory. The talk will include a glimpse of the general theory of the relativity.
February 5th:  "The Age of the Universe and Dark Energy " , Professor Lucas Macri
 
An accurate and precise measurement of the age of the Universe is very important for understanding its ultimate fate, which is dictated by the still unknown nature of dark energy. In this talk I will explain how we measure the age of the Universe by determining distances to nearby galaxies using Cepheid variables, which are used in turn to calibrate the luminosity of type Ia supernovae. I will also review the evidence for the existence of dark energy from high-redshift supernovae, galaxy surveys, and cosmic background radiation.
February 12th: "The ABC of Atomic Nuclei: The Modern Alchemist?" , Professor Che-Ming Ko
 

Although the atomic nucleus was discovered by Rutherford almost one hundred years ago, advances in the understanding of the structure and properties of nuclei continue to lead to new perspectives. With the advent of accelerators that allow nuclear collisions at relativistic energies and with rare isotopes, nuclear physics is again expanding into new frontiers, which will allow a deeper understanding of how matter was formed from the primordial quark-gluon plasma during the evolution of the early universe and how known elements are produced through nucleosynthesis in stars. In this talk, an overview of the history of nuclear physics and the properties of atomic nuclei as well as practical applications of nuclear science will be presented.

February 19th: "The Magic of Superfluids", Professor David Lee
 
The history of superfluidity in Helium-4 and Helium-3 as well as superconductivity will be discussed. Spectacular effects such as the fountain effect in liquid helium and superconductivity levitation will be demonstrated in films and color photos. It will be shown that superfluidity and superconductivity are manifestations of quantum mechanics on a macroscopic scale. Further advances in the field, including high temperature superconductivity and Bose-Einstein condensation of cold atoms, will be mentioned briefly.
February 26th: "Determinism, Einstein and Quantum Mechanics", Professor Edward Fry
  Einstein believed that quantum mechanics was an incomplete theory. In that context, he is famously quoted from a letter he wrote to Max Born in 1944: “You believe in God playing dice and I in perfect laws in the world of things existing as real objects. . .” The interpretation of quantum mechanics will be discussed, and the decades long history of this contentious problem will be reviewed. A version of the breakthrough analysis by John Bell that made it possible to experimentally test these heretofore philosophical arguments will be presented. Results of the experimental tests of the Bell inequalities will be described and their present status will be discussed.
March 5th: "Energy for the Future?" , Dr. Aldo Bonasera
 

The amount and costs of fossils for energy production are contrasted to nuclear fission energy and alternative energy production. We show how different ways of producing energy compete. We suggest that nuclear fusion will be the energy of the future and discuss new experiments from ITER to NIF aiming to produce energy from these sources. We discuss how mining on the moon for He(3) could be a future job for the next generation.

 
March 26th: "From Slow LIght to FAST CARS", Professor George Welch
 
Special relativity teaches us that nothing in the universe can ever go faster than the speed of light in a vacuum. However, for the last few years, scientists have routinely slowed light to very low speeds ---comparable to a garden snail--- and have even stopped it dead in its tracks, and stored it for future use. Furthermore, the same techniques can make light appear to go infinitely fast, or faster. Slow light promises to play an important role in optical technology, and has important consequences for applications in optical data storage, quantum information, and even traditional radar. In addition, we are now using the same slow-light techniques for improved detection of certain molecules. Hopefully, these new methods will enable remote detection of biological molecules, and even allow early detection of biological warfare agents such as anthrax.

2010 Program Listing

January 23: "Nuclear Science and Society", Professor Cody Folden

 
Although we may not realize it, when human beings interact with the natural world, we do so through chemical interactions. Our bodies rely on blood chemistry to supply oxygen to our muscles, we burn chemical fuels to powerour vehicles, and many products use plastics created by chemical reactions. These reactions involve bonding between electrons in atoms, and it would be easy to assume that this is the end of the story.  In the last century, however, we have come to realize that there is another part of the atom that plays a major role in defining our world and our universe: the nucleus. Although this central entity is responsible for almost all of the mass in an atom, it will only react with another nucleus when placed under extreme conditions.  We have learned to harness these special properties, and nuclei have come to play an essential role in modern life. This talk will introduce you to the nucleus and explain how it defines our economy, life on Earth, and even our very existence.
January 30:  "Particle Accelerators and Detectors: A Household Survey" , Professor Carl Gagliardi
 
Many different techniques are used to accelerate and detect subatomic particles. In an effort to understand how they work, we will look for them around the home and garden.
February 6: "What Do We Know about how Stars Evolve?" , Professor Robert Tribble
 

About 50 years ago, scientists realized that nuclear reactions were responsible for the energy produced by stars.  Since that revelation, much work has gone into understanding the reactions that occur in stars and the abundance of elements in different stars.   This work has led to a better understanding of stellar evolution and the importance of this evolution in producing the matter that makes up our planet.  During my lecture, I will provide an overview of the processes that we know are important in the energy production in stars and give a broad view of what we know, and what we do not know, about how stars evolve. 

February 13: "How to Form the Most Massive Galaxies in the Universe", Professor Kim-Vy Tran
 
Our own Milky Way galaxy is filled with billions of stars, but there are galaxies that have enough stars to make a hundred Milky Way galaxies.  How do we ``weigh'' these massive galaxies?  Can we explain how they formed?  I will describe how these giants differ from their smaller cousins and how astronomers can use them to better understand how all galaxies form.
February 20: "The Primordial Liquid and a Rubber Band at a Trillion Degrees", Dr. Felix Riek
  A fundamental question about any kind of matter is what different macroscopic phases it can support. For most of the known substances, for example water, we know that,
depending on the ambient pressure and temperature, solid, liquid and gas phases exist, even so-called plasma phases. In this lecture we will explore the types of phases that can
possibly be found in experiment (and/or be predicted theoretically) at the subatomic (femtometer) scales, such as "nuclear matter" (which builds up the nucleus of an atom) and its highly heated and compressed relatives, all the way to the Quark-Gluon Plasma, the primordial "soup" that filled the early universe.
February 27: "The Art and Science of Magnetism at Nanoscale" , Professor Igor V. Roshchin
 

Recent advances in nanoscience and nanotechnology resulted in miniaturization of electronic devices and their elements and sparked a wide interest in magnetism at the nanoscale. Very representative is the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2007 that was awarded for the discovery of a so-called "Giant-Magneto-Resistance (GMR) effect"; a discovery that quickly lead to a tremendous enhancement in the density of magnetic storage. That, in turn, enabled cheap and large-capacityhard-drives and other electronic memories.

Unique properties of nanostructured magnetic materials provide high potential for variety of applications, including biochemical and biomedical ones, such as sensors and methods for cancer treatment.

After discussing the state of the art in the nanoscale magnetism, I will talk about the challenges that the researchers are facing in developing future technologies and devices. Examples of the work done at Texas A&M University will be presented.

 
March 6: "Physics in the Information Age", Professor Alexey Belyanin
 
When we do a Google search browsing through millions of computer servers in a fraction of a second or participate in a videoconference with people located at different continents, we rarely think about scientific discoveries and technologies that enabled this miracle. In fact, the technologies that laid the foundation for the current Information Age, namely lasers, transistors, computers, optical fibers, and even the world-wide web (www), were all invented by physicists!

In this lecture I will explain and demonstrate the physical processes and devices that control sending, receiving, and processing of data. We will identify bottlenecks that limit the information exchange and possible ways to break through these barriers and speed up the flow of information.

2009 Program Listing

January 24: "LHC: The 9 Billion Dollar Window to the Universe", Professor Dave Toback

 
In the first lecture in this series I will lay out some of the foundations of our understanding of the biggest and smallest things in the Universe. Incredibly, these two realms of science, particle physics and cosmology, are remarkably intertwined. After describing why we believe this is true we quickly come to the limits of our current understanding, where only experiments can fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle. These pieces include understanding the famous Dark Matter in the Universe, and perhaps discovering Supersymmetry, a new theory that predicts that there are many more particles to be discovered in nature. I'll then focus on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) a 9 Billion Dollar experiment that, when complete, will be the largest scientific instrument ever made. This device collides the smallest things known in nature at the highest energy every attained by mankind, and provides a new window of understanding of what the Universe was like just moments after the Big Bang. Because of the unique relationship between particle physics and cosmology this window can potentially provide insight into the biggest thing we know: the Universe itself.
January 31:  "The Heaviest Elements in the Universe", Professor Cody Folden
 
Everything in the world around us is made up of the elements that appear on the Periodic Table.  The heaviest element that we find in large quantity is uranium (you can actually mine it the same way you mine gold), although extremely tiny amounts of plutonium have also been observed in the environment.  In the last 70 years, scientists have produced many additional new elements, some with as many as 118 protons in the nucleus.  Although nuclear physics is used to form these elements, their chemistry is also fascinating, and at least one chemical property has been measured for almost every element.  In some cases less than ten atoms of an element were used to compare its chemistry with that of its lighter homologs, where billions and billions of atoms are available.  These chemistry studies attempt to answer questions like, "Does the Periodic Table still work for the heaviest elements?" I will discuss the history of these discoveries, the ultra-sensitive techniques used, and the prospects for the future.
February 14: "Dark Matter" , Professor Rupak Mahapatra
 
The Universe is now known to contain mostly unknowns, in the form of Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Matter as we know it makes up for less than 5% of the total Universe, with Dark Matter and Dark Energy accounting for approximately 25% and 70%, respectively. Detecting the nature of the Dark Matter is one of the most highly prized efforts in the field of High Energy Physics. Experiments around the world are searching for the most likely particle candidate for the Dark Matter called WIMP (Weakly Interacting Massive Particle), by detecting very rare collisions of WIMP with ordinary matter. Complimentary experiments also search for the indirect signature of such interactions in space. Finally, the Large Hadron Collider in Europe attempts to produce this WIMP directly in the laboratory. We discuss these different techniques trying to answer one of the biggest fundamental questions in Physics: what makes up the huge missing mass in the Universe.
February 21: "Quarks, Gluons and Co.: Meet the Quirky Inhabitants of the Atomic Nucleus", Professor Rainer Fries
 
All visible matter in our Universe is made from only a handful of particles. Protons and neutrons, the building blocks of atomic nuclei, are made from quarks and gluons. Throw in electrons, neutrinos and their heavier cousins as well and you can build everything from a single hydrogen atom to an entire planet. Scientists have measured all of these particles and we now call this the Standard Model of particle physics.

I will introduce the particles of the Standard Model and discuss some of their fascinating features. Then we take a good look at the so called Strong Force between quarks and gluons and the peculiar reasons why quarks are prisoners of this force and are never found roaming freely. We also explore how quarks could be set free by providing an environment
with temperatures hotter than the core of the sun. We can create these ultra-hot conditions at large nuclear colliders like RHIC and LHC.
February 28: "Symmetries in Nature:  A Glimpse into the Beauty and Art of Science" , Professor Dan Melconian
  The world around us is filled with countless wonders, most of which — when we look closely — are terribly complex. Throughout human history, we have tried to boil things down to their basic building-blocks, and physicists continue to use this effective "bottom-up" approach to understand the nature of the universe. With just a couple of fundamental particles, we can describe everything we see on a day-to-day basis; with just a few more, we can describe everything we see with our highest energy colliders. Much of the success of modern physics has its basis in utilizing symmetry principles. I will introduce the role symmetries play in physics and discuss some of the ways our investigation into them help elucidate the beauty of Nature.
March 7: "The Age of the Universe and Dark Energy" , Professor Lucas Macri
  Measuring the age of the Universe as accurately as possible is very important for understanding its ultimate fate, which is dictated by the still unknown nature of dark energy. In this talk we will discuss how we determine distances to nearby galaxies using Cepheid variables to calibrate type Ia supernovae and measure the age of the Universe. We will also review the evidence for the existence of dark energy from high-redshift supernovae, galaxy surveys, and cosmic background radiation.
 
March 28: "Fun with String Theory", Professor Melanie Becker
 
(Please not that this event will begin at 10:00 AM and will be held in the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center at the George Bush Library Complex).
High energy experimental physicists would like to understand the basic constituents of our universe by scattering particles at very short distances in large particle accelerators like the ``Large Hadron Collider'' at CERN. Cosmologists and observational astronomers are interested in understanding the origin of our universe: how was the universe created? What happened during the first seconds after it was created? Theoretical high energy physicists use string theory to describe our world at very short distances or at very early times. In this talk we will explore the curious world of string theory.

2008 Program Listing

January 26: "The weak force - dancing to its own tune", Professor John Hardy

 
Though gravity is the only force most of us experience in our daily life, it is by far the weakest of the four fundamental forces identified in nature. In spite of its name, the "weak force" is actually much stronger than gravity and is the most extraordinary force of them all. It is the only force that does not merely act between a pair of participants; it actually changes the identity of those participants and is thus responsible for the most common types of radioactive decay. It is also the only force that does not form a true image when reflected in a mirror. This is a force that dances to a different tune than all the others. "Just how different is it?" is a question that many physicists are now asking.
 
February 9:  "Dark particle hunters", Professor Teruki Kamon
kamon  
Various astronomical measurements reveal a very mysterious form in the universe, called dark matter. The word "dark" is because we cannot see it by any telescopes. But its existence can be inferred from gravitational effects. Modern theories of particle physics attempt to describe the universe and predict a new particle for this matter. The dark matter particles (or dark particles in this lecture) have not yet been detected experimentally. In 2008, the world's most powerful proton accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), will operate and provide millions of millions of proton-proton (pp) collisions. So then, such dark particles could be created in the collisions. As one of many dark particle hunters, I will relate phenomena at a gigantic scale in the universe to the pp collisions at a very small scale (much smaller than a hydrogen atom); and explain how possibly one can measure the mass of the dark particle at the LHC.  This will be the beginning of a long journey to understand the dark matter.
 
February 16: "Determining the ultimate fate of the universe using observations of supernovae",
Professor Kevin Krisciunas
 
Double stars are very common in the universe, and a very common end state for a star (such as the Sun) is to become a white dwarf star. If a double star consists of a white dwarf and a nearby star that is much larger, then gas can flow from the larger star onto the white dwarf, eventually causing it to explode with the energy of several billion Suns. These "white dwarf supernovae" are like light bulbs of known brightness, only they are so bright that we can see them halfway across the observeable universe. We can use them to determine distances to the galaxies where they exploded. This has allowed us to discover that the universe is expanding and also accelerating in its expansion. The universe does not have enough gravitational energy to put the brakes on this acceleration, so it looks like the universe will expand forever.
 
February 23: "Alchemy of the universe: Nucleosynthesis of chemical elements", Dr. Adriana Banu
 
Although the world we live in is varied and complex, it is actually made up of only a limited number of chemical elements. We know today that only 90 such elements exist naturally on Earth. The origin of these elements is a longstanding scientific problem that requires close collaboration between nuclear and astro-physicists. In this lecture, we address questions like: Why does gold cost so much more than iron? or, more profoundly: Where do the chemical building blocks of humankind come from? To investigate such questions, two possible scenarios responsible for the origin of the chemical elements (the Big Bang and nucleosynthesis within stars) are discussed. We shall find out that the stars are fascinating "cooking pots" of the Universe, and, concerning our origin, we are made of stardust! The iron in our blood, the calcium in our bones, etc., were all forged in stars.
 
March 1: "Neutron stars: Giant atomic nuclei in the sky", Dr. Hendrick van Hees
  According to the known laws of physics, Neutron Stars are the densest objects in the universe besides Black Holes. They have a mass of about 1.4 to 2 times the mass of our sun but a radius of only ~10 miles. The corresponding densities are therefore expected to exceed those at the center of heavy atomic nuclei (around 300000000000000000 kg/m^3, that is, almost 15 orders of magnitude larger than water!). In this lecture we discuss the physical models which describe the formation of a neutron star, the exotic forms of matter contained in neutron stars and how we can check these models by astronomical observations.
 
March 22: "Descent into the proton: A journey inside an elementary particle", Professor Rainer Fries
  The proton, and its unstable cousin, the neutron, are elementary particles which are of fundamental importance in our universe. They are responsible for the fact that we find 92 different chemical elements in nature, from hydrogen to uranium, and 99.9% of the mass of any object you weigh in your hand comes from the protons and neutrons inside. More than 30 years ago it was discovered that they are not 'elementary' at all, but made from smaller constituents called quarks and gluons. This lecture invites you to come on a journey inside a proton and to look over the shoulder of scientists trying to unravel its structure.
 
March 29: Review, Summary and Certificates, Professor Ralf Rapp
  In this concluding event, we will give a comprehensive review of the previous six lectures with special attention to the common thread running through the presentations. We will award the final certificates and give an outlook/have a discussion on college/career paths in physics.
     
 

2007 Program Listing

January 27: Particles and Forces: What is Matter and what holds it together?, Professor Rainer Fries

 
The concept of an atom was first discussed by philosophers in ancient Greece more than 2000 years ago. Modern technology has long enabled us to see, use and manipulate atoms. But atoms are not the smalles units in nature. They are built from even tinier particles. Nowadays scientists all over the world are searching for the most fundamental building blocks of nature and for the forces that hold them together. We discuss the particles and forces known to us today and we take a look at some of the huge machines that are necessary to discover new ones.
February 10: Modern Particle Accelerators and Detectors, Professor Carl Gagliardi
 
Nuclear and particle physicists use a broad range of acceleration and detection tools in their work. All you need to do is walk around your home to see many of these tools and the tricks that make them useful. We'll take that walk together.
February 17: Heavy Quarks in Primordial Matter: Elephants in a Liquid, Professor Saskia Mioduszewski
 
Sixty miles away from New York City, scientists from around the world constructed a large accelerator (2.4 miles in circumference), the so-called Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, RHIC, at Brookhaven National Laboratory. RHIC accelerates heavy atomic nuclei to almost the speed of light and then smashes them into each other. The scientists' goal is to create matter as hot as a million suns! It is believed to have existed in the early universe, a few microseconds after the Big Bang. These tiny blobs of fundamental matter "cook" in the laboratory only for a small fraction of a second, so scientists must develop special probes to gain an understanding of the properties of this matter. A promising probe is the so-called J/Psi particle, a heavy subatomic particle which is particularly sensitive to changes in the produced medium of the nucleus+nucleus collision. We will discuss how the J/psi and similar ``elephants" may help us to discover exciting properties of this novel, ultra-hot form of presumably liquid matter.
February 24: The Secret of Mass: Can we Evaporate the Vacuum at RHIC? Professor Hendrik van Hees
 
From ancient times on men have been wondering where the mass of matter originates from. Only within the last 30 years or so, physicists have discovered that most of the mass is generated by the strong nuclear force which acts between almost massless (light) quarks. The light quarks, however, assemble into massive protons and neutrons, which form atomic nuclei, the building blocks of every-day life matter. Quantum Chromodynamics, the modern theory of the strong interaction predicts that the "strong" force is so powerful that it rearranges the vacuum from an "empty void" into a dense "background". It is the "dense vacuum" which is believed to be at the origin of mass. At the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) on Long Island (NY), physicists try to "evaporate" the QCD vacuum by smashing together heavy nuclei at the highest available energies. Within the resulting ultrahot matter, the strong force is expected to become weaker, leading to dramatic changes in the particles' masses. We will discuss how these experiments can be used to answer an ancient question.
March 3: A Plunge into a Black Hole, Professor Alexey Belyanin
  Black holes are probably the most mind-boggling objects in the Universe. There are good reasons to think they exist, although direct proof is still lacking. Moreover, it is even not clear what would qualify as a direct observation of an object from which nothing can escape, even light. In this lecture we attempt a crazy plunge into a black hole and observe weird effects due to curved geometry of space and time. After miraculous safe return, we will collect observational evidence for the existence of black holes and identify best black-hole candidates among known objects on the sky.
March 24: Dark Puzzles of the Universe, Professor Bhaskar Dutta
  What the universe is made of has always been a fascinating question. It is only during the last few years that we have come to know that universe is mostly made out of dark matter and energy. Currently, we have several queries. What are these dark stuffs? Do we know their origin? How can we describe them? Was the universe always like this?
 
March 31: Review, Summary and Certificates, Professor Ralf Rapp
  In this concluding event, we will give a comprehensive review of the previous six lectures with special attention to the common thread running through the presentations. We will award the final certificates and give an outlook/have a discussion on college/career paths in physics.
   

2006 Program Listing

Saturday, January 28: The ABC of Atomic Nuclei: The Modern Alchemist, Professor Che-Ming Ko

Although the atomic nucleus was discovered by Rutherford almost one hundred years ago, advances in the understanding of the structure and properties of nuclei continue to lead to new perspectives. With the advent of accelerators that allow nuclear collisions at relativistic energies and with rare isotopes, nuclear physics is again expanding into new frontiers, which will allow a deeper understanding of how matter was formed from the primordial quark-gluon plasma during the evolution of the early universe and how known elements are produced through nucleosynthesis in stars. In this talk, an overview of the history of nuclear physics and the properties of atomic nuclei as well as practical applications of nuclear science will be presented.
Saturday, February 11:The Weak Force: Dancing to its own Tune, Professor John Hardy
Though gravity is the only force most of us experience in our daily life, it is by far the weakest of the four fundamental forces identified in nature. In spite of its name, the "weak force" is actually much stronger than gravity and is the most extraordinary force of them all. It is the only force that does not merely act between a pair of participants; it actually changes the identity of those participants and is thus responsible for the most common types of radioactive decay. It is also the only force that does not form a true image when reflected in a mirror. This is a force that dances to a different tune than all the others. "Just how different is it?" is a question that many physicists are now asking.
Saturday, February 25: Building Blocks of Nature: Why is Lead so Heavy?, Professor Ralf Rapp
The origin of the mass of the objects around us has always been a fascinating problem. Only within the past couple of decades have we gained deeper insights, including the notion that mass is actually "dynamically generated" through interactions between the elementary particles (the "quarks") that make up nucleons and atomic nuclei. It furthermore implies that the vacuum is not at all empty!
Saturday, March 11: Modern Particle Detectors: A Household Survey, Professor Carl Gagliardi
Nuclear and particle physicists use a broad range of acceleration and detection tools in their work. All you need to do is walk around your home to see many of these tools and the tricks that make them useful. We'll
take that walk together.
Saturday, March 25: Jet Quenching in Heavy-Ion Collisions: Quantum Fireworks,Professor Saskia Mioduszewski
Nuclear physicists from around the world are working together at the particle collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory to observe what happens to atomic nuclei at extreme temperatures and densities. By colliding heavy ions, such as gold nuclei, at very high energies, the goal is to recreate the conditions present in the universe directly after the Big Bang, with the ultimate goal of understanding what holds matter together.
Saturday, April 8: The Early Universe: A Journey into the Past, Dr. Hendrik van Hees
Tracing back the history of the universe is one of the greatest intellectual challenges to mankind. As we have  now learned, it requires forefront knowledge of particle physics, nuclear physics and cosmology, and their  relations. New astronomical observationsindicate that, despite the great success in understanding the ultimate  building blocks of ordinary matter, the major fraction of the "matter content of the universe" is still a wide open  question!
 
Saturday, April 22: Review, Summary and Certificates