Ben Schumacher works in the emerging field of quantum information theory, studying the surprising relationships between quantum mechanics, information theory, computation, thermodynamics and black hole physics.

Areas of Expertise

Quantum mechanics, information theory, computation, thermodynamics and black hole physics.

Education

1990 — Doctor of Philosophy from Univ Texas Austin

1982 — Bachelor of Arts from Hendrix College

Courses Recently Taught

In the early 17th century, Galileo's writings on physics and astronomy helped establish modern scientific thought. Three centuries later, Einstein's work on relativity and quantum theory helped transform it. The ideas of both men proved influential and ignited controversy far beyond the bounds of their scientific disciplines. In this class, we will read essential works by Galileo and Einstein (among others) and explore not only their discoveries, but also their wider views of nature and the human striving to understand her. What principles guide the scientific quest? Are there limits to scientific knowledge? What are the relationships between observation and imagination, between genius and ethics, between science and religion? This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. Offered every other year.

"Rocket science" may be proverbial as a complex subject impossible for the ordinary person to understand, but in fact its essential principles are entirely accessible to any Kenyon student. Our course explores the basic concepts of rocket propulsion and spaceflight, including Newton's laws of motion, ballistics, aerodynamics, the physics and chemistry of rocket motors, orbital mechanics and beyond. Simple algebra, numerical calculations and data analysis help us apply the principles to real situations. We also delve into the history of astronautics, from the visionary speculations of Tsiolkovsky and Goddard to the missiles and space vehicles of today. Finally, we take a look at some of the developments in technology and space exploration that may lie just around the corner. In addition to the regular class meeting, there will be several evening and weekend lab sessions, during which we will design, build, test and fly model rockets powered by commercial solid-fuel engines. A willingness to build upon high school science and mathematics is expected. This course does not count toward the Physics major. No prerequisite.

Around us we see a vast, expanding universe of galaxies. The galaxies are composed of stars, some of which planets orbit. At least one of these planets in the universe is inhabited by an astoundingly complex set of living things. Where did all this come from? This course presents an overview of the formation and evolution of the universe, the solar system, planet Earth, and life on our planet. Astronomical observations, computer simulations and laboratory experiments will supplement lectures and readings. This course does not count toward the Physics major. No prerequisite.

This laboratory course meets one afternoon each week and is organized around weekly experiments that explore the phenomena of classical mechanics and electromagnetism, including motion, forces, fluid mechanics and conservation of energy and momentum. Lectures cover the theory and instrumentation required to understand each experiment. Experimental techniques emphasize computerized acquisition and analysis of video images to study motion. Students are introduced to computer-assisted graphical and statistical analysis of data as well as the analysis of experimental uncertainty. This course does not count toward the Physics major. Prerequisite: concurrent enrollment in PHYS 130 (or PHYS 140 for sophomores enrolled in PHYS 140). Offered every fall.

This laboratory course meets one afternoon each week and is organized around weekly experiments that explore the phenomena of wave phenomena, geometrical and physical optics, elementary quantum theory, atomic physics, X-rays, radioactivity, nuclear physics and thermodynamics. Lectures cover the theory and instrumentation required to understand each experiment. Students will continue to develop skills in computer-assisted graphical and statistical analysis of data as well as the analysis of experimental uncertainty. This course does not count toward the Physics major. Prerequisite: concurrent enrollment in PHYS 135. Offered every fall.

This lecture course is a continuation of the calculus-based introduction to physics, PHYS 140, and focuses on the physics of the 20th century. Topics include geometrical and wave optics, special relativity, photons, photon-electron interactions, elementary quantum theory (including wave-particle duality, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, and the time-independent Schrödinger equation), atomic physics, solid-state physics, nuclear physics and elementary particles. PHYS 145 is recommended for students who might major in physics and is appropriate for students majoring in other sciences or mathematics, particularly those who are considering careers in engineering. The course will be taught using a combination of lectures, in-class exercises, homework assignments and examinations. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. This course is required for the Physics major. Prerequisite: PHYS 140 and MATH 111 or permission of instructor and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 146 and MATH 112 or permission of department chair. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Offered every spring.

This laboratory course is a corequisite for all students enrolled in PHYS 135 or 145. The course meets one afternoon each week and is organized around weekly experiments demonstrating the phenomena of waves, optics, X-rays, and atomic and nuclear physics. Lectures cover the theory and instrumentation required to understand each experiment. Experimental techniques include the use of lasers, X-ray diffraction and fluorescence, optical spectroscopy, and nuclear counting and spectroscopy. Students are introduced to computer-assisted graphical and statistical analysis of data, as well as the analysis of experimental uncertainty. This course is required for the Physics major. Prerequisite: PHYS 131 or 141 and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 145. Offered every spring.

This laboratory course is a corequisite for all upperclass students enrolled in PHYS 240. The course is organized around experiments demonstrating various phenomena associated with the special theory of relativity and electric and magnetic fields. Lectures cover the theory and instrumentation required to understand each experiment. Laboratory work emphasizes computerized acquisition and analysis of data, the use of a wide variety of modern instrumentation and the analysis of experimental uncertainty. This course is required for the Physics major. Prerequisite: PHYS 146 and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 240. Offered every fall.

From particle accelerators to galaxies and stars to the big bang, high-energy particle physics and astrophysics address the sciences' most fundamental questions. This course will cover topics of contemporary relevance from the combined fields of cosmology, astrophysics, phenomenological particle physics, relativity and field theory. Topics may include the big bang, cosmic inflation, the standard model of particle physics, an introduction to general relativity, and the structure and evolution of stars and galaxies’ stellar structure and galactic evolution. This counts toward the theoretical elective for the major. Prerequisite: PHYS 350 or permission of instructor. Offered every other year.

This course extends the formalism of quantum mechanics and applies it to a variety of physical systems. Topics covered may include atomic and molecular spectra, nuclear structure and reactions, NMR, scattering, perturbation theory, quantum optics, open system dynamics and quantum entanglement. This counts toward the theoretical elective for the major. Prerequisite: PHYS 360

This introduction to thermodynamics and statistical mechanics focuses on how microscopic physical processes give rise to macroscopic phenomena; that is, how, when averaged, the dynamics of atoms and molecules can explain the large-scale behavior of solids, liquids and gases. We extend the concept of conservation of energy to include thermal energy, or heat and develop the concept of entropy for use in determining equilibrium states. We then apply these concepts to a wide variety of physical systems, from steam engines to superfluids. This counts toward the theoretical elective for the major. Prerequisite: PHYS 245 and MATH 213. Offered every other year.