Colloquium

Junior and senior physics majors attend our biweekly colloquium series, held on Tuesday afternoons at 4:30 pm in Shanahan B460. The talks are open to all students and to the public, and are frequently attended by scientists from the other Claremont Colleges, Cal Poly Pomona, and others. The series features speakers from a broad range of institutions and fields of physics.
HMC Physics Colloquium shot
Nov. 11, 2008 Ned Wright, University of California at Los Angeles
Observing the Origin of the Universe
In the past century our knowledge about the Universe went from one fact - the sky is dark at night - to hundreds of facts from the Cosmic Microwave Background, observations of distant supernovae, and baryon oscillations.

We now know the Universe is so big that we can see nearly all the way back to the origin of the Universe ...

Oct. 28, 2008 Alex Small, Cal Poly Pomona
Faster, Smaller, Smarter: Using Light to See Things Smaller than the Wavelength of Light!
Standard microscopes cannot resolve features smaller than the wavelength of light, due to diffraction of light by the microscope aperture. This same phenomenon also limits the features that can be formed in conventional photolithography. In recent years, several techniques have been proposed for beating the diffraction limit in fluorescence microscopy, enabling the detection of cellular features down to 30 nm ...
Oct. 7, 2008 Jerry Pine, Caltech
Studying the Development of Cultured Neural Networks
Brain neurons can be dissociated from embryos and grown in culture dishes, where they form functionally connected neural networks. The details of this development can be studied in small cultures, where all the connections can be mapped by stimulating individual neurons and observing the responses of all others. A new technology that permits this to be done nondestructively over time ...
Sept. 23, 2008 Nicola Spaldin, University of California at Santa Barbara
How Do We Use Computational Methods to Design New Materials?
Modern computational methods are proving to be invaluable in the first-principles design of new materials with specific targeted functionalities. After discussing the capabilities and limitations of available computational tools, I will illustrate their utility with a case study on materials that are simultaneously ferromagnetic and ferroelectric. Such “multiferroics” are of current interest because coupling between the order parameters leads both ...
Sept. 9, 2008 Several HMC Senior Physics Majors, Harvey Mudd College
Summer 2008 Off-Campus Research
HMC senior physics majors Julian Freed-Brown, Alex Hagen, Brandon Horn, Eric Langman, Matthew Lawson, Akash Rakholia, Steve Rosenthal, and Tahir Yusufaly will describe their off-campus research experiences this past summer. Find out how they landed their jobs and what they were like.
April 22, 2008 Several HMC Professors, Harvey Mudd College
Recent Developments in Physics
  • Attosecond real-time observation of electron tunneling in atoms (Tom Donnelly)
  • Rhic ’n Roll (Vatche Sahakian)
  • Gravity Probe B: a 50-year test of general relativity (Peter Saeta)
March 25, 2008 Steuard Jensen (’98), Joint Sciences Program
Extra Dimensions in String Theory
For many years, string theory has been a leading approach to the vexing problem of quantum gravity and perhaps the only major attempt to formulate a "Theory of Everything." One of its surprising predictions is that our universe should have extra dimensions beyond the familiar three space plus one time. This talk will give a conceptual introduction to the interplay ...
Feb. 19, 2008 Jun Ye, JILA
Quantum Metrology with Precision Light and Ultracold Atoms
Improvements in spectroscopic resolution have been the driving force behind many scientific and technological breakthroughs over the past century, including the invention of the laser and the realization of ultracold atoms. State-of-the-art lasers can now maintain phase coherence over one second, that is, 1015 optical waves can pass by without losing track of a particular cycle. The recent development of ...
Feb. 12, 2008 James Higbie, University of California at Berkeley
Ultra-Sensitive Atomic Magnetometry: From Fieldable Sensors to High-Resolution Magnetic Microscopy
Precision measurement of magnetic fields on the centimeter to meter scale has a wide range of fundamental scientific and practical applications, including co-magnetometry for fundamental-particle electric dipole-moment searches, space magnetometry, sensing of biomagnetism, detection of unexploded ordnance, and geophysical exploration. Atomic magnetometers, as high-sensitivity, cryogen-free sensors, are well suited to these applications; development of the next generation of atomic magnetometers, ...
Feb. 5, 2008 Adam Edwards, Pomona College
Particle Physics — Physics at the Petabyte Scale
Advances in experimental particle physics have often been achieved through colliding particles together at ever higher energies. In recent years however, an alternative way forward has been implemented: precision measurement with particle factories. Achieving “needle in a haystack”" precision out of extremely large amounts of data creates new types of challenges for today’s particle physicists. Computer hardware and software skills ...
Jan. 29, 2008 Huen Jin Lee, Caltech
Using Mechanics to Describe Cell Membrane Structures
The membranes of a cell are organized in a great variety of shapes and sizes, from the outer cell wall to its internal organelles. While the spatial distribution of these membranous structures have been well characterized (particularly on the micron scale), far less is known about the underlying physical mechanics responsible for even the simplest shapes. A simple physical idea ...
Dec. 4, 2007 Gordon G. Fullerton, NASA
The Early Days of the Space Shuttle Program
Nov. 27, 2007 Omer Blaes, University of California at Santa Barbara
How To Light Up a Black Hole: The Physics of Black Hole Accretion Flows
Far from being dark, black holes are at the heart of the most energetic and luminous phenomena observed in the universe, from quasars to gamma-ray bursts. In fact, black hole power has actually had a significant ecological impact on the universe, affecting how entire galaxies formed and evolved. Understanding how all this works requires understanding how gravitational binding energy is ...
Nov. 13, 2007 Ernie Glover, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Ultrafast X-ray Spectroscopy: Probing Dynamics at Fundamental Length and Time Scales
The non-equilibrium world in which we live is characterized by chemical reactions, phase transitions, and other dynamical processes which, ultimately, are mediated by the ultrafast (<10-12 sec) motion of individual atoms and molecules. Our ability to understand and eventually control how matter evolves at the microscopic level is hampered by an inability to ’see’ material dynamics on such ultrasmall spatial ...
Oct. 30, 2007 Sean Carroll, Caltech
Why Is the Past Different From the Future?
Over a century ago, Boltzmann and others provided a microscopic understanding for the tendency of entropy to increase. But this understanding relies ultimately on an empirical fact about cosmology: the early universe had a very low entropy. Why was it like that?

Cosmologists aspire to provide a dynamical explanation for the observed state of the universe, but have had very ...