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
April 27, 2021 Trieu Mai, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
100% Renewable Electricity for the U.S.: Is it possible? Would it be enough?

A key pillar to decarbonizing the energy system is to clean up the electricity system primarily through renewable resources like wind and solar. Numerous studies have examined the impact of greater deployment of these technologies and new ambitions call for renewable energy to provide 100% of U.S. electricity generation—for example, President Biden calls for 100% clean energy by 2035. Over …

April 13, 2021 Dave Stegman, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
A Brief History of Earth’s Magnetic Field

The initial condition of the Earth, following a moon-forming impact, was likely to be a completely molten state, and estimates of the melting curve for lower mantle compositions indicate that the magma ocean would solidify from the middle out, trapping about 1000 km of molten mantle between the core and overlying solid mantle, referred …

April 6, 2021 Michael T. Montgomery, Naval Postgraduate School
The Dynamics of Tropical Cyclogenesis and Intensification

To forecast tropical cyclones, or to determine possible changes in their climatology as a result of global warming, we need a conceptual model of how tropical cyclones work.

  • How do tropical cyclones form, intensity, and decay?
  • Why do these storms sometimes intensify rapidly, surprising tropical forecasters in charge of protecting life and property for communities affected by these life-threatening …
March 30, 2021 Srividya Iyer-Biswas, Purdue University
How Life Shapes Time

There has been a longstanding quest for uncovering the quantitative laws governing the stochastic growth and division of individual cells. While great strides have been made in unravelling and modeling the details of the gene regulatory networks which dictate growth and division for different organisms, there is a regrettable paucity of quantitative physical laws derived from the complementary “top down” …

March 23, 2021 Franklin Dollar, University of California at Irvine
Moore’s Law for Lawrence’s Device: Shrinking the Particle Accelerator

As Moore’s law continues to push forward semiconductor devices, we are now seeing commercial devices with feature sizes below 5 nanometers. Through the use of high power, short pulse lasers, a technology which warranted the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics, an analogous revolution is set to occur in particle accelerators. These new laser driven accelerators can achieve efficient acceleration of particles …

March 16, 2021 Clarice Aiello, University of California at Los Angeles
From Nanotech to Living Sensors: Unraveling the Spin Physics of Biosensing at the Nanoscale

Substantial in vitro and physiological experimental results suggest that similar coherent spin
physics might underlie phenomena as varied as the biosensing of magnetic fields in animal
navigation and the magnetosensitivity of metabolic reactions related to oxidative stress in
cells. If this is correct, organisms might behave, for a short time, as “living quantum sensors”
and might be studied and controlled …

March 2, 2021 Ken Davis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
BEC and the 2001 Nobel prize

In 2001 Wolfgang Ketterle won the Nobel prize in physics.  The award was given for the observation of Bose Einstein condensation in a gas of sodium atoms.  This experimental result was pursued with intensity for decades by experimental groups around the country and around the world.  Learn what was novel about Ketterle’s approach and why it worked. Also learn about …

Feb. 23, 2021 Alison M. Saunders, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Experiments on Materials at Extreme Conditions at High Power Laser Facilities

The field of High Energy Density Physics (HEDP) in an emerging field of physics that combines expertise from plasma and condensed matter physics to understand the behavior of materials at extreme conditions, such as those that exist at the center of the sun. Extreme conditions in the laboratory are generated through pressure applied statically or dynamically through shock compression. Lasers …

Feb. 8, 2021 Cynthia Chiang, McGill University
Illuminating the Dark Universe with Radio Observations

Redshifted 21-cm emission from neutral hydrogen is a powerful tool for observational cosmology research. Measurements across a wide range of radio frequencies allow us to access redshifts that encompass a vast comoving volume, spanning both cosmic dawn and the formation of large-scale structure. I will describe the HIRAX, PRIZM, and ALBATROS experiments, which aim to shed new light on the …

Feb. 2, 2021 Alex Klotz, California State University, Long Beach
Materials Physics with Kinetoplast DNA

The biological world is the source of many materials with exotic or desirable properties. Among these, DNA molecules have served as a model system to study the physics of polymers on the single-molecule level. A kinetoplast is an exotic form of DNA, found in certain tropical parasites, that consists of thousands of circular molecules topologically linked together like a sheet …

Jan. 26, 2021 Casey Handmer, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Electrodynamic magnetic levitation

“Can we all have maglev trains? Why? Why not?”

Dr. Casey Handmer from JPL will be presenting along with a Q&A session. Casey has a background in computational general relativity and gravitational waves. However, his interests are wide ranging.

Nov. 17, 2020 Bonnie Buratti, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pluto: Everything Strange and Wonderful we Learned from New Horizons.
Oct. 27, 2020 Saad Bhamla, Georgia Tech Research Institute
Fast, Furious and Frugal: Soft matter principles in ultrafast organismal biophysics and low-cost science tools.

In this talk, I will share two stories. The first documents our journey into the world of extreme single cells that exhibit ultrafast contractions. Using the lens of soft matter physics, we will discover how these extraordinary cells leverage these rapid contractions to transmit signals over long distances in a phenomena we term ‘hydrodynamic communication’. The second explores development of …

March 31, 2020 Christina Knapp, Caltech
Quantum Computing with a Topological Phase of Matter

A central tenet of condensed matter physics is that the collective behavior of a system can be drastically different from that of its constituent parts.  Topological phases of matter provide an especially dramatic example of this idea: the phase of matter cannot be identified within a local region, but is rather encoded in global properties of the system.  As such, …

Feb. 18, 2020 Jocelyn Read, California State University, Fullerton
Learning about Neutron-rich Matter with Gravitational Waves

Astronomical observations of neutron stars inform our understanding of matter at the highest densities. Already, we have used gravitational-wave data from GW170817—the first signal from a neutron-star system—to constrain the equation of state of dense matter in neutron stars. More recently, the new heavy neutron-star merger GW190425 has indicated that the gravitational-wave population may include systems not previously observed as …