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Spring 2009 Colloquium Series

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Colloquia are at 4pm, Thursdays, in 100 Willamette Hall and are preceded by coffee, tea, and cookies at 3:40 in the Wilamette Atrium.
The organizer of the Spring Term Colloquia is: Richard Taylor

Apr 2, 2009

Steve Hsu

Department of Physics
University of Oregon

Black Holes, Entropy and Information

Black holes are the densest objects in the universe, not just in terms of energy but also entropy and information! After a gentle and somewhat historical introduction, I explore modern topics such as Hawking radiation, area entropy and the black hole information puzzle.

Host: Richard Taylor

Apr 9, 2009

Jens Noeckel

Department of Physics
University of Oregon

Microcavity Optics

In optics, microcavities are structures that trap light on size scales in the range from ~1 to 100 μm. This results in spatial, spectral and polarization features that are important for a wide range of applications, but that can’t always be described with methods of macroscopic optics. Numerical computations incorporating the geometry and material parameters of realistic microcavities have revealed surprising phenomena such as a photonic analogue of spin-orbit coupling. This leads us to explore how concepts and methods from quantum mechanics can be adapted to such micro-scale optical systems.

Host: Richard Taylor

Apr 16, 2009

Linda Reichl

Center for Complex Quantum Systems and Physics Department University of Texas at Austin

Quantum Control of Atomic Systems Using Nonlinear Dynamics

Laser radiation interacting with an atomic system can create chaos and non-linear dynamical structures in the phase space of the system. These dynamical structures induce fundamental, but controllable, changes in the quantum dynamics of the atomic system. Using laser radiation it is possible, for example, to stabilize electrons that would otherwise ionize and coherently control internal transitions in atomic systems. We will demonstrate these effects for two very different types of system: the internal dynamics of atomic and molecular systems and the coherent control of clouds of cold atoms.

Host: Richard Taylor

Apr 23, 2009

Jon Palfreman

KEZI Distinguished Professor of Broadcast Journalism
School of Journalism and Communication
University of Oregon

Telling “True” Stories: Reflections of a Science Journalist

Host: Mike Raymer

Apr 30, 2009

Greg Bothun

Department of Physics
University of Oregon

Galaxy Formation: Simple or Not?

The discovery of a strange new object (coined as the Cosmic Mystery Blob) on April 22, 2009
possibly has great significance to our overall understanding of galaxy formation. Simply put, the properties of this
object are not expected in our standard view. That standard view mandates that a) fluctuations in dark matter must
be present for galaxies to exist, b) the process of galaxy formation itself occurs via some kind of assembly process of
smaller mass baryonic sub-units that are embedded in the overall dark matter distribution, and c) that process is slow
and not expected to be very complete until 2-3 billion years after decoupling.

This colloquium will show that while the standard view is theoretically pleasing, it does not match the observations
very well and will discuss the implications of the Cosmic Mystery Blob on any revision of this standard view (in other
words, the discovery of this object is finally something that observational cosmologists can get excited about). Finally
we will present some evidence that the assembly process of galaxy formation may still be occurring today.

Host: Richard Taylor

May 7, 2009

Yuhai Tu

IBM T.J. Watson Research Center

From Molecules to Behavior: E. Coli’s Memory, Computation and Motility

Most biological systems are far from equilibrium, which exhibit fascinating, complex behaviors. Over the last half century, great progress has been made in identifying the key molecules (DNA, RNA, Proteins) responsible for various biological functions. One main challenge (and opportunity) in modern biology is to understand the system-level behavior from the molecular-level knowledge of the cell. Computational biology, by using quantitative modeling methods similar to those commonly used in physics can play a major role in meeting this challenge. As an example, we will present some recent work in trying to understand bacterial chemotaxis by combining modeling approach with quantitative measurements. Using models based on molecular level knowledge of the E. coli chemotaxis pathway, we will address several system-level questions: Does E. coli have memory? How long does it take the cell to forget? What type of signal processing does the cell perform? How does the cell use its memory and computation capability to sense and respond to a minute chemical gradient (nutrient or toxin) among a wide range of background.

Host: Jim Remington

May 14, 2009

Camille Bibeau

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Science and Technology for National Security

Dr. Camille Bibeau will present an overview of how basic science, engineering and technology play a vital role for 21st-century national security needs. As an employee of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), she will discuss how LLNL applies multidisciplinary science and technology to address significant real-world challenges facing us today. Cutting-edge capabilities in multiple areas exist at LLNL along with talented staff and unique complex research facilities. During this discussion you will learn more about the exciting research being conducted at LLNL within the context of national and global security in addition to research opportunities, examples of non-traditional careers, and how innovative combinations of scientific and non-scientific fields are needed.

Host: David Sokoloff

May 21, 2009

Michael Hochberg

Department of Electrical Engineering
University of Washington


Host: Graduate students

May 28, 2009

Salman Habib

The Dark Universe Challenge: Is Theory up to the Task?

Driven by the twin mysteries of dark energy and dark matter, cosmological measurements are continuing to improve at impressive rates. Next-generation cosmological surveys aim to exploit structure formation probes of the dynamics of the Universe to understand the physics of the “Dark Universe”. The associated measurements are threatening to attain accuracies of a percent (or better) on many observable quantities. These advances pose a very difficult challenge for theorists: It is rarely possible to isolate individual processes in cosmology, and describing many observations requires overcoming serious obstacles posed by multi-scale and multi-physics modeling tasks. I will list some of these hurdles and discuss how they might be overcome. In particular, I will describe our experience in meeting certain challenges for next-generation cosmological surveys, including an interesting statistical foray and new simulations on the world’s fastest computer that can improve the state of the art by up to two orders of magnitude.

Host: Dan Steck

Jun 4, 2009

Heiner Linke

Department of Physics
University of Oregon

As the size of a motor is reduced, thermal noise and quantum effects can become large compared to the energies that drive the motor. As a result, nanoscale energy converters often work differently from macroscopic, everyday machines.

I will describe two specific projects on nanoscale energy conversion that have been central to the lab for the last few years: the conversion of chemical energy into mechanical work performed by molecular motors, and the highly efficient conversion of heat into electricity in quantum-dot based devices.

I will also say a few words about the continuation of this work at Lund University, starting this summer.

Host: Richard Taylor