The David and Edith Harris Physics Colloquium Series

SPRING 2015 Schedule

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

FEBRUARY 5, 2015
MARKUS OBERTHALER
University of Heidelberg
Host: Vladan Vuletic

"Quantum metrology with Bose Einstein Condensates"

One aspect of metrology, the science of measurement, is the exploration of the ultimate precision limit. It is known for quite some time that the new possibilities in quantum mechanics allow the surpassing of the ultimate classical precision limit given by counting statistics. Quantum metrology is about the exploration of these new limits. The goal is the generation and characterization of useful quantum mechanical resources for going beyond the classical precision limits. Since the gain in precision is intimately connected to quantum entanglement in many particle systems these investigations are also interesting from the fundamental point of view.

In this colloquium I will discuss in detail how Bose Einstein condensates can be used to generate entangled many particle states which push atom interferometry beyond the classical limits. I will use the system of two component atomic condensates as a model system for explaining how quantum correlations arise and how they can be used for improved estimation of a phase shift in an atom interferometer. The simplest form of useful many particle quantum states are spin squeezed states which can be classified as Gaussian states. I will also report on the latest results revealing that Bose Einstein condensates make it possible to generate deterministically non-gaussian states. The experimental extraction of a bound of the quantum Fisher information implies that these states also surpass the classical limits of the phase estimation precision.

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

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

FEBRUARY 12, 2015
ANNA WATTS
University of Amsterdam
Host: Deepto Chakrabarty

"The Physics and Forensics of Neutron Star Explosions"

Neutron stars are the densest objects in the Universe, attaining physical conditions that cannot be replicated on Earth. The nature of matter at such extreme densities is one of the great unsolved problems in modern science and this makes neutron stars unparalleled laboratories for nuclear physics and QCD. Astronomers have several techniques at their disposal to study neutron star composition, but some of the most promising involve using the magnetic and thermonuclear explosions that periodically rock many neutron stars. I will introduce these explosive phenomena and explain how we can sift through the photonic debris to find clues to the underpinning dense matter physics.

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

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

FEBRUARY 19, 2015
JEAN DALIBARD
Collège de France
Hosted by Wolfgang Ketterle

"Quantum Gases in Low Dimension: from Atom Circuits to Topological States of Matter"

In his famous novel "Flatland" published in 1884, the English writer Edwin Abbott imagined a social life in a two-dimensional world. With a very original use of geometrical notions, E. Abbott produced a unique satire of his own society. Long after Abbott's visionary allegory, microscopic physics has provided a practical path for the exploration of low-dimensional worlds. With the realization of quantum wells for example, it has been possible to produce two-dimensional gases of electrons. The properties of these fluids dramatically differ from the standard three-dimensional case, and some of them are still lacking a full understanding.

During the last decade, a novel environment has been developed for the study of low-dimensional phenomena. It consists of cold atomic gases confined in laser traps, which can be shaped in arbitrary forms such as disks or annuli, in which permanent currents can be established. The talk will discuss some aspects of this research and explain how artificial magnetism can be implemented on these gases, raising the possibility to generate topological states of matter analogous to those appearing in Quantum Hall physics.

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

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

FEBRUARY 26, 2015
ANDREI KOUNINE
MIT
Hosted by Peter Fisher

"Results from the AMS Experiment on the International Space Station"

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) is a general purpose high energy particle detector deployed on the International Space Station in 2011. It conducts a unique long duration mission of fundamental physics research in space. To date the detector collected over 60 billion cosmic ray events. In this presentation, I will discuss the AMS detector and its physics objectives: a search for understanding of dark matter, antimatter, the origin of cosmic rays, and the exploration of new physics phenomena.

The presentation will then focus on recent AMS results on the positron fraction, the individual fluxes, and the combined electron and positron flux. These measurements are complementary one to another. Together they provide a deeper understanding of the origin of high energy cosmic rays and shed more light on the existence of new phenomena in cosmic rays.

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

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

MARCH 5, 2015
FRANCIS GAVIN

MIT
Hosted by Peter Fisher

PHYSICS IN THE INTEREST OF SOCIETY COLLOQUIUM

"Nuclear Statecraft – History and Strategy in America’s Atomic Age"

There is a widely held belief that we are at a profound and critical juncture in world politics.  Nuclear proliferation, strategy and policy have risen to the top of the global policy agenda, and issues ranging from a nuclear Iran to the global zero movement are generating sharp discussion and debate. What is the best way to understand these problems and recommend the best policies to deal with these questions?

The key is to examine the historical origins of our contemporary nuclear world.  Surprisingly, this is rarely done.  Nuclear Statecraft challenges key elements of the widely accepted, stylized narrative about the history of the atomic age and the consequences of the nuclear revolution.  On a wide range of issues -- including the strategy of flexible response, the influence of nuclear weapons during the Berlin Crisis, Nixon’s nuclear strategies, the origins and motivations for U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy, and how to assess the nuclear dangers we face today, to name a few -- we have gotten our history wrong.  In this talk, I will focus on the little known history of the origins of the United States decision to vigorous pursue nuclear nonproliferation, and in particular, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

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

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

MARCH 12, 2015
SURYA GANGULI
Stanford University
Hosted by Nikta Fakhri

"The Statistical Physics of Deep Learning: on the Beneficial Roles of Dynamic Criticality, Random Landscapes, and the Reversal of Time"

Neuronal networks have enjoyed a resurgence both in the worlds of neuroscience, where they yield mathematical frameworks for thinking about complex neural datasets, and in machine learning, where they achieve state of the art results on a variety of tasks, including machine vision, speech recognition, and language translation.   Despite their empirical success, a mathematical theory of how deep neural circuits, with many layers of cascaded nonlinearities, learn and compute remains elusive.  We will discuss three recent vignettes in which ideas from statistical physics can shed light on this issue.  In particular, we show how dynamical criticality can help in neural learning, how the non-intuitive geometry of high dimensional error landscapes can be exploited to speed up learning, and how modern ideas from non-equilibrium statistical physics, like the Jarzynski inequality, can be extended to yield powerful algorithms for modeling complex probability distributions.  Time permitting, we will also discuss the relationship between neural network learning dynamics and the developmental time course of semantic concepts in infants.

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

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

MARCH 19, 2015
CHRISTOPHER FRYER
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Hosted by Yen-Jie Lee & George Stephans

"Diagnosing Supernovae: Nature’s High-Energy Density Laboratory"

The engine behind core-collapse supernovae reaches temperatures above 10MeV and densities above nuclear densities, an ideal setting to study the behavior of matter in these extreme conditions. But, to do so, we must understand the observations of supernovae sufficiently well to use this data to probe the central engine. We will review the growing suite of supernova observations and what we now understand about supernovae. We will also discuss the current issues in using these diagnostics and what the future holds to improve our understanding of both the observations and their constraints on the central supernova engine.

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

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


MARCH 26, 2015 - NO COLLOQUIUM DUE TO SPRING BREAK

APRIL 2, 2015
JACQUELINE HEWITT
MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research
Host: TBD

"Probing the Cosmic Dawn and Cosmology with the 21cm Hydrogen Line"

Measurements of the cosmic microwave background at redshift z ~ 1100 give us information about the initial density fluctuations that seeded subsequent gravitational collapse and structure formation. Observations of galaxies and clusters at z <~ 8 give us information about the outcome of this structure formation. Between those redshifts lies a modern frontier of cosmology - the cosmic dawn that marked the formation of the first stars and galaxies and the reionization of the intergalactic medium. Direct observations of this phase of the universe’s history are currently lacking. A particularly promising technique is that of mapping hydrogen structures using the redshifted 21cm radio line. Several recently-completed low frequency radio arrays are now operating and providing us with an early glimpse into the process of structure formation. Future larger arrays may further elucidate this history and possibly even probe the initial conditions believed to result from inflation.

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

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

APRIL 9, 2015
CRISTIAN URBINA
CEA-Saclay
Hosted by Pablo Jarillo-Herrero

"Manipulating the Quantum State of a Single Cooper Pair in a One-Atom Contact"

The Josephson effect describes the flow of supercurrent through a weak link such as a tunnel junction, nanowire, or molecule between two superconductors. It is the basis for a great variety of circuits and devices like magnetometers, quantum amplifiers, and qubits — having a tremendous impact on both fundamental and applied science. The most general description of the Josephson effect, valid for all types of weak links, is based on the key concept of Andreev bound states. These are doublets of localized states with energies smaller than the superconducting gap, which can be viewed as the two possible states of a Cooper pair localized at the weak-link.

I will illustrate this physics with experiments on the simplest Josephson weak-link: a one-atom contact between two superconductors. In particular, I will describe the time-domain manipulation of quantum superpositions of Andreev bound states.

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

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

APRIL 16, 2015
NIMA ARKANI-HAMED
Institute for Advanced Study
Hosted by The MIT Society of Physics Students

"Space-Time, Quantum Mechanics and Scattering Amplitudes"

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

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

APRIL 23, 2015
ALEXANDER POLYAKOV
Princeton University
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)

APRIL 30, 2015
ARUP CHAKRABORTY
MIT
Hosted by Mehran Kardar

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

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

MAY 7, 2015
MICHAEL BRENNER
Harvard University
Hosted by Jeremy England

"Towards Artificial Living Materials"

Biological systems provide an inspiration for creating a new paradigm for materials synthesis. Imagine it were possible to create an inanimate material that could both perform some function, e.g. catalyze a set of reactions,  and also self replicate.   Changing the parameters governing such a system would allow the possibility of evolving materials with interesting properties by carrying out "mutation-selection" cycles on the functional outcomes. Although we are quite far from realizing such a vision in the laboratory, recent experimental advances in coating colloidal scale objects with specific glues (e.g. using complementary DNA strands) have suggested a set of theoretical models in which the possibilities of realizing these ideas can be explored in a controlled way.  This talk will describe our ongoing efforts to explore these ideas using theory and simulation, and also small scale experiments.

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

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

MAY 14, 2015
MICHEL DEVORET
Yale University
Hosted by Isaac Chuang

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

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

Last updated on March 19, 2015 11:09 AM