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
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 ...

Oct. 16, 2007 Bob McKeown, Caltech
Neutrino Masses and Oscillations: Triumphs and Challenges
The recent progress in establishing the existence of finite neutrino masses and mixing between generations of neutrinos has been remarkable. The combined results from studies of atmospheric neutrinos, solar neutrinos, and reactor antineutrinos paint an intriguing picture that clearly requires modification of the standard electroweak model. These results also provide clear motivation for future experimental studies involving oscillations with nuclear ...
Oct. 2, 2007 Peter So (’86), Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Frontiers in Optical Biomolecular Imaging
In the post-genomic era, a central challenge of modern biology and medicine is the need to understand how the interactions of protein machines affect the physiology and the pathology of cells and tissues. Optical imaging and spectroscopy afford unprecedented opportunities in studying these dynamical processes in vivo. In this lecture, I will focus on two microscopy technologies. First, high through-put ...
Sept. 18, 2007 Dwight L. Whitaker, Pomona College
Captivating and Chilling: An All-Optical Method for Making Bose-Einstein Condensates
We have developed a system to create Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) in a time varying optical dipole trap produced by a single focused CO2 laser. Our system can cool up to a million atoms to quantum degeneracy in any hyperfine states. We have also found that our trap provides a temperature stability and precision that is better than any "conventional" BEC ...
Sept. 11, 2007 Six HMC Students, Harvey Mudd College
Off-Campus Research in the Summer of 2007
Sam Eisenberg, Max Gibiansky, David Coats, Stephen Rosenthal, Will Tipton, and Meredith Rawls will describe how they landed their summer research positions and what they were like.
April 24, 2007 Eric E. Fullerton, University of California at San Diego
Characterizing Magnetic Materials on the Nano-Scale Using Synchrotron X-Rays
Magnetic materials and devices have played a major role in science and technology for the last half century. Hard disk drives dominate information storage and magnetic random access memory (MRAM) is emerging in the memory market. Present magnetic devices are complex metal hetero-structures that combine many layers and state-of-the-art lithography. A key component for continued development of such nano-technologies is ...
April 17, 2007 Ashley Stroupe, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Robotic Planetary Science: the Mars Exploration Rovers and Beyond
One of the primary tasks of the Jet Propulsion Lab is robotic planetary science. This talk will discuss the current state of the art in planetary rovers, the Mars Exploration Rovers, focusing in particular on their autonomous capabilities. There will also be details of some of the scientific results of the MER mission. Several limitations are still inherent in the ...
April 3, 2007 Roger Falcone, University of California at Berkeley
Watching Atoms Move With Ultrafast X-Rays
I will discuss experiments which study the dynamics of atoms in materials. This work utilizes fast x-ray pulses to probe the motion of atoms that have been excited by fast laser pulses. I will also discuss new synchrotron-based sources of x-rays, plans for a new generation of x-ray free-electron lasers, and opportunities for new science.
March 20, 2007 David Hafemeister, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Physics of Sustainability
Sustainability movement will be defined and described. The physics part of sustainability is driven by energy use and environmental impacts. Recent data on energy and climate change will be displayed. This will be followed by back-of-the-envelope calculations, which prove the following:

  • King Hubbert’s equations for oil production are modified, using supply and demand economics. The additional production from ...
March 6, 2007 Robert H. Kraus, Jr., Los Alamos National Laboratory
Imaging Human Brain Function, or, Can We “Read Your Thoughts?”
A variety of techniques have been developed to noninvasively image human brain function that are central to understanding how the brain works and to detect pathology. Current methods can be broadly divided into those that rely on hemodynamic responses as indicators of neural activity and methods that measure neural activity directly. All of the functional brain imaging approaches in use ...
Feb. 20, 2007 Several HMC Professors, Harvey Mudd College
Recent Developments in Physics
Four HMC physics faculty will present brief summaries of some of the year’s most interesting developments in physics.
  1. "Electron Magnetic Moment to 1 Part Per Billion: How to Measure It and Why We Care," Theresa Lynn
  2. "How to Go Into Physics AND Make a Pile of Money," Tom Donnelly
  3. "A Stochastic Background of Gravitational Waves from Hybrid Preheating," Vatche ...