The department offers a physics colloquium every Friday. Researchers from outside the College are invited to talk about their work, students discuss their summer research projects and their senior-exercise topics, and alumni share their latest exploits. Check regularly for upcoming talks. 

Fall 2021

Aug. 27: Physics Welcome Back Lunch

Enjoy a welcome meeting to the Physics Colloquium series. Meet other students and members of the department and discuss what's happening this year in physics. Lunch will be served from 12 to 1 p.m.

Sept. 3: PLSR MLA: Ranking Pulsar Candidates with Machine Learning with Quinn Curren '22

This September, the Physics Department is hosting a series of presentations by our very own honor students. For Friday, Sept. 3, we welcome Quinn Curren (class of 2022) for his presentation on pulsar candidates. Due to recent changes on campus, this presentation will be a virtual event.

Pulsars are rapidly spinning neutron stars that emit electromagnetic radiation along their magnetic poles. The fastest pulsars, known as millisecond pulsars, rotate hundreds or thousands of times each second and have periods as precise as atomic clocks. Scientists can observe gravitational waves through the careful timing of a large collection of millisecond pulsars, since gravitational waves will shift the correlated arrival time of these pulses as measured on Earth. These Pulsar Timing Arrays become more sensitive as more pulsars are discovered. Pulsars are observed mainly using radio telescopes, but radio emissions from other sources are also picked up by these telescopes. Advanced software is used to find pulsar candidates from radio telescope observations across the sky. Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) and noise comprises well over 99 percent of the candidates in the PALFA survey, and can closely resemble genuine pulsar candidates. However, manually sorting through the pulsar/RFI candidates is time consuming and inefficient. One method of analyzing the candidate list is to create an algorithm that will automatically rank the candidates using machine learning algorithms (MLA). This project aims to create a novel MLA that will rank pulsars accurately and separate them from non-pulsar candidates. Machine learning aims to recreate the way that humans learn; and like MLAs, this project’s structure is based upon the methods that experts use to manually rank candidates.

Sept. 10: Modeling Black Hole-Scalar Field Interactions with Ericka Florio '22

In the second of our honors presentation series, Erika Florio '22 will be exploring the physics of black hole-scalar field interactions. This event will be virtual. Join us via Zoom.

As it stands, our best description of gravity, general relativity, is not fully consistent with our most successful physical theory ever, quantum mechanics. Examining high-energy phenomena, such as the physics of the early universe and regions of extreme spacetime curvature, is essential for determining where our theory of gravity may fail, and how we can move beyond it. This presentation will introduce Ericka's honors work examining the physics of black hole-scalar field interactions. She will perform this computation using GABERel, a numerical tool that can couple full (numerical) general relativity with scalar fields without making any assumptions, in a fully non-linear context. She will generate scalar field wave packets and a black hole, then allow the wave packet to hit a black hole. She will then examine the products of this interaction in configuration space as the frequency of the wave packet changes in order to determine which types of interactions are possible and on what scales.

Sept. 17: Demonstrating Control over State Mixing in Rydberg Excitation near Förster Resonance with Tom Yoda '22

The third of our honors student presentations will be Tom Yoda discussing trapped ultra-cold atoms. Join us at noon on Friday, Sept. 17. You can join us for this virtual event by clicking on this Zoom link.

"The Rydberg excitation blockade, or the suppression of excitation due to strong interactions, is a critical component  of quantum computation and simulation using neutral atoms. However, unwanted state-mixing effects near Förster resonance cause the blockade to break down. My research group performs state selective field ionization spectroscopy on a  shot-by-shot basis to observe this effect. I will introduce you to the world of trapped ultra-cold atoms. Then, I will propose my honors project of controlling unwanted state-mixing effects using different parameters, not just the principal quantum number or density of the atoms, but also pulse duration and Rabi frequency. This control will be critical in future implementations of neutral-atom quantum information."

Sept. 24: Modeling Relativistic Fluids in General Relativity with Mary Gerhardinger '22

Our fourth and final honor student speaker will be Mary Gerhardinger. She will be presenting on "Modeling Relativistic Fluids in General Relativity." Join us in Hayes 211/213 at 1 p.m. for the presentation. Food will be provided before the presentation at 12:30 p.m.

Current models of cosmology predict the formation of black holes near the beginning of the Universe’s life that are not a result of stellar collapse. These black holes, called Primordial Black Holes (PBH), could help explain our currently incomplete understanding of the origin of super massive black holes and the composition of dark matter. Exactly how these PBH are formed, however, has not been studied rigorously. In this talk I will introduce my honors work examining the possible formation of PBH from primordial density fluctuations modeled through the interaction of radiation with gravity. Specifically, I will discuss the best approximations we can use to describe both radiation (as a relativistic fluid) and gravity (as Einstein’s theory of General Relativity). We will investigate both the theories of fluids and general relativity before discussing how to implement this model onto computational simulations, performed using a tool called GABERel.

Oct. 1: Quantum Voyages, Cosmic Journeys: Exploring Physics through the Arts with Smitha Vishveshwara 

Professor of Physics Smitha Vishveshwara from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign will be presenting on "Quantum Voyages, Cosmic Journeys: Exploring Physics through the Arts." This presentation takes a unique gaze at physics through the artistic spectrum. Join us in Hayes 211/213 at 12 p.m. for the presentation. 

From ancient monuments to modern day films, the confluence of the arts and physics has resulted in  creations that have led to a deeper understanding of nature, to friendly and enchanting ways of perceiving science in action, to giving the arts a new dimension,  to technological progress, and to pure fun! In this talk, I will describe the educational power of such confluences and recount some of our experiences in this realm.  In a project-based interdisciplinary course entitled Where the Arts meets Physics, we bring alive the universe and the quantum world through installation and performance — cosmic canopies housing black hole mergers, raps on radioactivity, Warhol versions of Bohr-Einstein debates, and more. Collaborations with theater, music and dance have led two original performance pieces that explore the magic and beauty of the quantum world, Quantum Voyages and Quantum Rhapsodies. I will share the science, stories, and process behind the making and performing of these pieces, and conclude with a description our latest adventure — a virtual art-science festival entitled the Illuminated Universe.