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. 13, 2012 Briony Horgan, Arizona State University
Good Vibrations for Habitable Environments on Ancient Mars from Orbital Spectroscopy
Infrared spectroscopy from NASA satellites around Mars has revolutionized our understanding of what the surface of the planet looked like 4 billion years ago. In this talk, I will discuss the physics behind solid-state vibrational spectroscopy of minerals at these wavelengths, how we interpret signals from a planetary surface, and how we can use mineralogical data to infer climatic and …
Oct. 30, 2012 Slobodan Mitrovic, Caltech
Thermoelastic Phononic Metamaterials
An independent control over electrical and thermal properties is one of the central goals in the search for efficient thermoelectric materials for waste heat energy conversion. A good thermoelectric will have high electrical, but low thermal conductivity. Nature, however, does not seem to favor this dissociation, and the best synthesized thermoelectrics in use today remain at about the same efficiency …
Oct. 16, 2012 Keith Schwab, Caltech
Quantum Mechanics with Mechanical Structures
There appears to be no fundamental reason why macroscopic mechanical objects cannot demonstrate quantum phenomena such as energy quantization, superposition states, and entanglement. In fact, in recent years, researchers have been successful in demonstrating a few of these basic states in the laboratory including the quantum ground state of motion and the exchange of a single quantum with a superconducting …
Oct. 2, 2012 John S. Townsend, Harvey Mudd College
Why the Higgs Boson is Called “The God Particle”
I will discuss how spontaneous symmetry breaking in gauge theories via the Higgs mechanism generates the masses of the elementary particles.
Sept. 25, 2012 Philip Muirhead, Caltech
Small Stars with Small Planets and Big Consequences

With the success of NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft, extrasolar planet science has entered a new era. Prior to Kepler’s launch exoplanet science was primarily concerned with gas-giant exoplanets, since gas giants comprised the majority of discoveries, numbering in the hundreds. NASA’s Kepler Mission has since discovered thousands of exoplanets with many of them terrestrial-sized. Of particular interest are terrestrial exoplanets orbiting …

Sept. 11, 2012 Nate Bean, Chris Cotner, Jake Fish, Robert Kealhofer, Erik Littleton, Laura Maguire, Luke Mastalli-Kelly, Bradley Perfect, Carola Purser, and Michelle Vick, Harvey Mudd College
What I did for summer research
Several HMC physics majors discuss how they landed summer research positions and what they did.
April 17, 2012 Peter Goldreich, Caltech
Physics in Everyday Life
Examples will be drawn from human metabolism, sports, flight, and weather.
April 3, 2012 Maria Spiropulu, Caltech
Results from the Highest Energy Proton Collisions at the LHC
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the largest and most complex scientific undertaking ever attempted. Its results will determine the future directions of high-energy physics. The LHC produced 7 TeV proton-proton collisions in 2010 and 2011, and it is expected to produce 14 TeV proton-proton collisions in 2014. Currently it is ramping up for the upcoming run at 8 TeV …
March 27, 2012 Jeanie Lau, University of California at Riverside
One, Two, Three — Quantum Transport Suspended Graphene Devices
Graphene, a two-dimensional single atomic layer of carbon, has recently emerged as a promising candidate for electronic materials, as well as a new model system for condensed matter physics. In this talk I will present our work on mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties of suspended graphene devices, such as ripple texturing, negative thermal expansion, spontaneous symmetry breaking and gap formation …
March 6, 2012 John M. Martinis, University of California at Santa Barbara
Design of a Superconducting Quantum Computer
The computational power of a quantum computer arises from the superposition of quantum states, which gives a net parallel-processing size that exceeds the number of atoms in the universe for even a modest 300-qubit processor. To build such a computer, many groups around the world are exploring whether experimental systems can be controlled sufficiently well and with enough quantum coherence. …
Feb. 21, 2012 Ann Esin, Richard Haskell, and Richard Mawhorter, Harvey Mudd College
Recent Developments in Physics
Measuring the universe using black holes (Esin); Biological-cell lasers: novelty or useful tool (Haskell); Electrons remaining stubbornly spherical (Mawhorter).
Feb. 7, 2012 Charlie Doret, Georgia Tech Research Institute
Milking Superposition: Processing Information Using the Quantum States of Trapped Calcium Ions
Two-state quantum systems may be used for encoding information in ways analogous to the bits of a conventional computer. Unlike discrete classical bits, however, quantum bits (qubits) may occupy superposition states in which they are simultaneously both 0 and 1. By manipulating such qubits it is possible to store and process information in new and powerful ways. Computation utilizing these …
Jan. 24, 2012 David Hoogerheide, Harvard University
Solid State Nanopores as Nanoscale Detectors: Single Molecules, Fast Kinetics, and Ionic Liquids
The advent of nanotechnology has created new possibilities for understanding the world and developing technologies to shape it. Nanoscale devices are useful for studying the behavior of very small numbers of molecules; because of their small size, however, nanodevices are particularly sensitive to fluctuations. One such device is the solid state nanopore, which is a promising platform for next-generation DNA …
Jan. 17, 2012 Daniel Wagenaar, Caltech
Multisensory Integration in an Invertebrate Predator
Obtaining information from the environment to guide behavior is one of the most fundamental functions of nervous systems. Since individual cues are rarely 100% reliable, many animals (including humans) combine cues across sensory modalities to improve the quality of their decisions and make their behavior more robust under variable circumstances. In mammals, this "multisensory integration" involves many billions of neurons …
Nov. 22, 2011 Peter N. Saeta, Harvey Mudd College
Enhancing Light Absorption in Solar Cells
Photovoltaics are the fastest-growing renewable energy source over the last three years and have the potential to supply a significant fraction of our electricity needs. Conventional silicon cells are made of thick crystals because silicon is a weak absorber in the infrared and much of the visible. Thin solar cells require less energy and material to make and may lead …