The David and Edith Harris Physics Colloquium Series

fall 2014 Schedule

Thursdays - Socials: 3:30pm in 4-349 (The Pappalardo Room) // Talk: 4:00pm in 10-250 (unless otherwise noted)

David PritchardSEPTEMBER 4, 2014
DAVID PRITCHARD
MIT

Host: Peter Fisher

"What Do Students Learn, What From, What Should They Learn, An Example, Can MOOCs Help?"

Data from our MasteringPhysics.com online tutor showed tremendous learning, but little evidence that our students think like a physicist.  Further disquieting news comes from investigations of exactly what students learned, how much they remembered as seniors, the role of homework copying, the limitations of partial credit grading, and the great disparity between what physics teachers want to teach and what our students want to learn.  I shall present evidence that a blended on-campus course can teach physics expertise.  Then I’ll describe a vision of how research, development, online learning and MOOCs can be combined to spread better learning universally.

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250

Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

Allan AdamsSEPTEMBER 11, 2014
ALLAN ADAMS
MIT
Host: TBA

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250

Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

Duncan BrownSEPTEMBER 18, 2014
DUNCAN BROWN
Syracuse University
Hosted by Matthew Evans

"Gravitational Waves: A New Frontier in 21st Century Astronomy and Astrophysics"

Gravitational waves are among the most remarkable predictions of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. These ripples in the curvature of spacetime carry information about the changing gravitational fields of distant objects. Almost a century after Einstein first predicted the existence of gravitational waves, scientists are on the brink of detecting them for the first time. Gravitational-wave astronomy will be a radically new tool for exploring the universe. I will describe the efforts of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) to detect gravitational waves from astrophysical sources, including the inspiral and merger of black holes and neutron stars. I will explain how binary compact object coalescence provides a potentially transformative laboratory for fundamental physics and astrophysics.

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250

Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

Steven JohnsonSEPTEMBER 25, 2014
STEVEN JOHNSON
MIT
Hosted by the MIT Society of Physics Students

"Do not all fix'd Bodies, when heated beyond a certain degree, emit Light and shine; and is not this Emission perform'd by the vibrating motions of their parts?" -- Sir Isaac Newton, The Third Book of Opticks, part I (1704).

Everyone knows that when an object gets hot enough, it glows. The quantitative mathematical theory of thermal radiation is over a century old, with the solution to the "ultraviolet catastrophe" of black-body radiation playing an important role in the origin of quantum mechanics. Well before Planck's law, Kirchhoff quantified the observation that a good absorber (a nearly black surface) is a good emitter, by presenting what is now known as "Kirchhoff's law" (of thermal radiation, not of circuits): the emissivity of a surface (the fraction of black-body radiation that it emits) is equal to its absorptivity (the fraction of incident light that it absorbs) at any given frequency.  This statement, which can be derived from detailed balance in thermodynamics or alternatively from the fluctuation-dissipation theorem combined with electromagnetic reciprocity, has taken on a new significance in the design of synthetic thermal emitters. For applications from spectroscopy to thermophotovoltaics, many researchers are exploiting photonic crystals, surface-plasmon resonances, and other optical effects in wavelength-scale media in order to design nano-patterned surfaces that radiate a tailored spectrum, for example to radiate primarily in a narrow frequency range.  At first glance, Kirchhoff's law also seems to impose a fundamental limitation on radiated power: since you can never absorb more than 100% of incident light, you can never emit more than a black body. It turns out that this is not the case, however. By the 1950's, it was realized that "near-field" heat transfer, between two surfaces separated on the wavelength scale or less, could exceed the black-body limit, but the problem proved surprisingly challenging to study: theoretical predictions were only possible for flat surfaces until developments (at MIT and elsewhere) in the last few years, when an explosion of new developments has appeared in the literature.  There has also been new work on thermal radiation from strongly nonlinear media, and we have recently shown that these can even exceed the black-body limit.   In this talk, we start with basic thermodynamics and work our way to these modern twists on the old notion of radiant heat.

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250

Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

Alyssa GoodmanOCTOBER 2, 2014
PAPPALARDO DISTINGUISHED LECTURE IN PHYSICS
ALYSSA GOODMAN

Harvard University
Hosted by Jesse Thaler

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250

Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

Nuh GedikOCTOBER 9, 2014
NUH GEDIK
MIT
Host: TBA
Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250

Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 8-329 (NOTE ROOM CHANGE)

Pablo Jarillo-HerreroOCTOBER 16, 2014
PABLO JARILLO-HERRERO
MIT
Host: TBA
Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250

Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

Beate HeinemannOCTOBER 23, 2014
BEATE HEINEMANN
University of California Berkeley
Hosted by Markus Klute

"LHC: The First Three Years And The Next Two Decades"

Following a design and construction phase of about 20 years, in summer 2012 the ATLAS and CMS experiments at Large Hadron Collider have discovered a Higgs boson. Following this discovery, more data were analyzed and first measurements of the properties have been made, suggesting that it indeed looks very much like the Higgs boson expected in the Standard Model of particle physics. The other major observation of the LHC is that no deviations from the Standard Model have been found, neither in precision measurements nor in direct searches for new particles. The presence of a Higgs boson and lack of other new particles puzzles in particular the theorists as it seems extremely unnatural. In 2015, after a 2-year shutdown, the LHC will start up again at nearly twice the previous energy, and will greatly increase the discovery potential for new particles. The collision rate will also continue to be increased in the future, further extending the discovery potential and enabling a precision measurement program for the Higgs boson. Throughout the talk I will focus in particular on the Higgs boson and the naturalness problem, what we have learned so far, and what we hope to learn from the future LHC data.

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250

Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

Juan MaldacenaOCTOBER 30, 2014
JUAN MALDACENA
Institute for Advanced Study
Hosted by Jesse Thaler

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250

Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

Steven BlockNOVEMBER 6, 2014
STEVEN BLOCK
Stanford University
Hosted by Ibrahim Cissé

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250

Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

John MarkoNOVEMBER 13, 2014
JOHN MARKO
Northwestern University
Hosted by Leonid Mirny

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250

Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

John PreskillNOVEMBER 20, 2014
JOHN PRESKILL
California Institute of Technology
Hosted by the MIT Physics Graduate Student Council

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250

Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)


NOVEMBER 27, 2014 - NO COLLOQUIUM DUE TO THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY

Omar HurricaneDECEMBER 4, 2014
OMAR HURRICANE
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Hosted by Peter Fisher

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250

Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 8-329 (NOTE ROOM CHANGE)

Last updated on August 28, 2014 9:25 AM