Department of Physics

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Colloquia & Seminars, Fall 2011

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Lecture Series on Nobel Prizes

Speaker: : Dr. Esteban Araya
Date: December 2, 2011 (Friday)
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Room: 205 Currens Hall

Abstract
In 1998, the scientific community was shocked by the discovery that the Universe is not only expanding, but expanding at an accelerated rate. The consequence of this discovery became clear immediately: at the largest scales, the Universe is dominated by a type of anti-gravity, which was dubbed "dark energy". Surprisingly, the "biggest blunder" of Albert Einstein (the introduction of a cosmological constant in his description of gravity), precisely accounts for the phenomenon. The discovery of the accelerated expansion of the Universe was achieved by observations of distant supernovae conducted by two groups led by Saul Perlmutter, Brian P. Schmidt, and Adam G. Riess; for which they received the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics. In this talk, I will review the observations that led to this fundamental discovery, and the implications of dark energy on the fate of our Universe.

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Exploring quantum matter with ultracold gases of dysprosium

Speaker: Nathaniel Burdick
Date: November 4, 2011 (Friday)
Time: 4 p.m.
Room: 205 Currens Hall

Abstract
Within the past 20 years, the techniques of laser cooling and trapping have allowed physicists to produce ultracold atomic gases, perhaps most notably with the Bose-Einstein condensation of rubidium and sodium in 1995. Today a wide variety of atomic systems are being used to study the behavior and interactions of particles at the quantum level. After briefly highlighting a number of experiments being done with ultracold gases, I will discuss my work with dysprosium, the most magnetic element. Dysprosium's large magnetic dipole moment and abundance of stable isotopes allows novel quantum states of matter to be explored. In particular, quantum liquid crystal phases--the quantum analogy to classical liquid crystals--should be accessible with ultracold dysprosium due to the long-range and anisotropic dipole-dipole interaction. Such phases are believed to exist in high-Tc superconductors.

About the speaker:
Nathaniel Burdick grew up in Macomb and after completing his schooling, he joined the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for his Ph.D. Currently, he is a graduate student working with Professor Benjamin Lev, who has recently moved from the University of Illinois to the Applied Physics Department at Stanford University. His research focuses on the production of ultracold matter and quantum simulation.

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From Physics to Actuarial Science!

Speaker: Dr. Sunish Menon
Date: October 21, 2011 (Friday)
Time: 4 p.m.
Room: 205 Currens Hall

Abstract
The cut-throat competition in business world is generating requirement for business leaders and analysts who are number savvy, creative and critical thinkers. Business analytics requires skills typically found in physics and mathematics graduates. In this presentation, I will talk about my journey from numerical computation to computation of numbers – a journey from physics to actuarial science.

About the speaker:
Dr. Sunish Menon is a computational physicist by training. He currently works as an ‘Actuarial Statistician’ at State Farm Insurance.

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Quantum Gates for Fundamental Physics

Speaker: Dr. Mike Goggin
Date: October 7, 2011 (Friday)
Time: 4 p.m.
Room: 205 Currens Hall

Abstract
Quantum gates are at the heart of quantum information processing. Not only are they the building blocks of a quantum computer, but they can also be used to probe fundamental ideas in quantum information. For example, we have used a controlled-sign gate to implement variable strength measurements with which we tested foundational ideas in quantum measurement. I describe the realization of the photonic quantum gate and how we used it for experimental investigations of complementarity, weak measurements, and a Bell inequality in time (the Leggett-Garg inequality).

About the speaker:
Dr. Michael Goggin is a physics professor at Truman State University. His primary research interest is experimental quantum optics involving the construction of sources of bright high-quality entangled photons, implementing linear optical quantum computing protocols and testing the Leggett-Garg inequality.

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An Introduction to Mathematica 8

Speaker: Sarah Wingfield
Date: September 30, 2011 (Friday)
Time: 4 p.m.
Room: 205 Currens Hall

Abstract
Topics to be covered include:

  • Editing text, generating quizzes, and making presentations
  • Using free-form input to enter calculations in everyday English
  • Using free-form input to enter calculations in everyday English
  • Creating models in Mathematica to investigate classroom concepts
  • Accessing ready-to-use teaching models in math, physics, chemistry, biology, economics, engineering, music, and other subjects
  • Utilizing visualization tools and annotated graphics
  • Experiencing Mathematica’s integrated data sources for chemicals, particles, cities and countries, financial instruments, astronomical objects, etc.
  • Applying and integrating data sources across disciplines and school departments
  • Using Mathematica’s built-in documentation
  • Exploring the numerous resources available to teachers and researchers
This training is open to professors and students from any discipline interested in the many uses of Mathematica 8.