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Fall 2015 Colloquium Series

Science Calendar

Colloquia are at 4pm, Thursdays (except as noted) in 100 Willamette Hall and are preceded by coffee, tea, and cookies at 3:40 in the Willamette Atrium.

The organizer for the Fall Term 2015 Colloquium series is Jim Brau.

(Titles are tentative.)

October 1

Ray Frey
University of Oregon

Title: State of the Department, and LIGO Update

October 8

Eric Corwin
University of Oregon

Title:  Glass Rules Everything Around Me


The great successes of modern physics have been reductionist. Equilibrium systems are understood by breaking them into ever smaller and simpler component parts. But the properties of a grain of sand do not determine the properties of the sand pile, nor do the atomic properties of silica determine those of window glass. Rather, all of the interesting behavior arises from the complex geometry of the many interacting pieces: the fundamental physics exists only at the scale of many particles (and indeed the properties of the constituent parts is all but immaterial). In this talk I will provide an overview of my labs successes in understanding the jamming and glass transitions as well as a broad outlook for the future with the eventual goal of cracking the glass transition problem.

October 15

Patrick Kelly
UC Berkeley

Title:  The Multiply Imaged Strongly Lensed Supernova Refsdal


In 1964, Sjur Refsdal first considered the possibility that the light from a background supernova could traverse multiple paths around a strong gravitational lens towards us. He showed that the arrival times of the supernova’s light would depend on the cosmic expansion rate, as well as the distribution of matter in the lens. I will discuss the discovery of the first such multiply imaged supernova, which exploded behind the MACS J1149.6+2223 galaxy cluster. We have obtained Hubble Space Telescope grism and ground-based spectra of the four images of the supernova, which form an Einstein Cross configuration around an elliptical cluster member. These spectra as well as rest-frame optical light curves have allowed us to learn about the properties of the peculiar core-collapse supernova explosion, which occurred 4.3 Gyr after the Bang Bang, and contain information about the lenses’ matter distribution as well as their stellar populations. A delayed image of the supernova is expected close to the galaxy cluster center as early as this Fall, and will serve as an unprecedented probe of the potential of a massive galaxy cluster.

Host: J. Brau

October 22

Jim Brau
University of Oregon

Title:  The International Linear Collider and Terascale Physics


The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has opened exploration of the Terascale through proton-proton interactions and, in doing so, has discovered the Higgs boson. This discovery was transformative, revealing the first direct evidence for the mechanism behind electroweak symmetry breaking. It raises deeper questions on the nature of Terascale physics. The LHC is continuing to probe this physics. The International Linear Collider (ILC), through the relatively clean collisions of polarized electrons and positrons, offers access to new Terascale physics and will generate discoveries complementary to those of the LHC. I will review the progress toward realization of the ILC, including the physics, the world-wide effort on detectors and the accelerator, and developments in Japan toward hosting the project.

October 29

Donnelly/Girardeau/Overley/Park remembrance

Please join us in a special colloquium remembrance dedicated to Russ Donnelly, Marvin Girardeau, Jack Overley and Kwangjai (KJ) Park.


Stan Micklavzina: Russ Donnelly, Marvin Girardeau, Jack Overley, Kwangjai (KJ) Park
David McDaniels:  Kwangjai Park, Marvin Girardeau
Richard Taylor:  Russ Donnelly
Harlan Lefevre: Jack Overley, Kwangjai Park
Stephen Gregory: Russ Donnelly
Michael Raymer: Marvin Girardeau
Jim Brau: Russ Donnelly
Paul Csonka: Russ Donnelly

November 5

John Toner
University of Oregon

Title: Birds, magnets, soap, and sandblasting: surprising connections in the theory of incompressible flocks


In this talk I’ll describe the hydrodynamic theory of the motion of incompressible flocks: that is, collections of self-propelled entities (“birds”) that are packed so tightly together that their density cannot change as they move. In two dimensions, this problem can be mapped onto an equilibrium magnet with a peculiar constraint. This problem, in turn, can be shown to be equivalent to a 2d smectic (“soap”), with the flow lines of the flock playing the role of the smectic layers. Finally, this smectic problem can be mapped onto the 1+1 dimensional KPZ equation, which describes the growth or corrosion (“sandblasting”) of a one dimensional interface. The scaling properties of this last system, which have been known exactly for a long time, can thereby be used to determine those of incompressible 2d flocks. One important implication of the resulting scaling laws is that such flocks can exhibit long-ranged order in two dimensions, unlike their equilibrium counterparts.

Host: Jim Brau

November 12

Joe Polchinski
UC Santa Barbara

Title: The Black Hole Information Paradox, Alive and Kicking


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. Skeptics for years failed to poke holes in Hawking’s argument, but concluded that if quantum mechanics is to be saved then our understanding of spacetime must break down in a radical way. For a time it seemed that Maldacena’s discovery of gauge/gravity duality had resolved the issue, but the recent firewall argument has opened many new questions.

Host: G. Kribs

November 19

Mark Hogan
SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Title: Advanced Particle Accelerator R&D


Particle accelerators are the ultimate microscopes. They produce high-energy beams of particles – or, in some cases, generate X-ray laser pulses – to probe the fundamental particles and forces that make up the universe and explore the building blocks of life. But it takes huge accelerators, like the 2-mile-long SLAC linac, to generate beams with enough energy and resolving power. If we could achieve the same thing with accelerators just a few feet long, accelerators and particle colliders could be much smaller and cheaper. Eighteen years ago, SLAC began an exciting series of experiments aimed at accelerating electrons and positrons to high energies in a much shorter distance by having them “surf” on waves of hot, ionized gas like that found in fluorescent light tubes. These “plasma wakefield acceleration” experiments have been mounted by a diverse group of accelerator, laser and plasma researchers from national laboratories and universities at FACET, the Facility for Advanced Accelerator Experimental Tests, which uses the first two kilometers of the SLAC linac. Mark Hogan reviews the history of these experiments, the current program at FACET and plans for the future at FACET-II.

Speaker Bio:

Mark Hogan is a senior staff scientist and leader of the Plasma Group in the FACET Division of SLAC. FACET is a test bed for advanced acceleration techniques that is open to scientists throughout the world. Hogan is in charge of the science program for this national user facility and is developing ideas for the follow-on facility FACET-II. He also leads a program at FACET that is developing concepts for linear colliders and free-electron lasers based on plasma wakefield acceleration. Hogan came to SLAC in 1998 as a postdoctoral researcher to work on plasma wakefield acceleration after earning a PhD in physics from UCLA. In 2000 he joined the SLAC staff and became the spokesperson for follow-on plasma wakefield experiments.

Host: J. Brau

December 3

Scott Dodelson

Title: Is there a Dark Sector or was Einstein Wrong?


Observations over the past decade suggest that most of the energy in the Universe is in the form of Dark Energy and Dark Matter. The hunt is on for the identity of these new substances as we strive to understand how they fit in to the rest of physics. Recently, attention has turned to another possibility: there is no dark sector but Einstein’s theory of gravity needs to be modified. We are now faced (again!) with a contest between two competing ideas: Change the fundamental laws of Nature OR Introduce new substances. Which will win and how will we find out?

Host: G. Kribs