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. 8, 2011 E. Sterl Phinney, Caltech
Mergers and Liquidations Among White Dwarf and Neutron Star Binaries
This year’s Nobel prize in physics was given for using Type Ia supernovae as standard candles to discover that dark energy now dominates the dynamics of the universe. Disconcertingly, recent research has uncovered problems with both of the two popular models for Type Ia supernovae. One is in trouble with observational data, and the other with careful theoretical calculations, which …
Oct. 25, 2011 A. J. Shaka (’80), University of California at Irvine
Deep Green: Long-Term Zero-Carbon Power for the 21st Century
It is becoming more and more obvious that continued burning of fossil fuels, with the large influx of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, could prove to be an enormous and expensive future problem. Furthermore, even if such changes could be weathered, the fossil fuels themselves will be exhausted, become expensive, and require more and more destructive methods to extract. For …
Oct. 4, 2011 Bruce McCandless II, NASA
Life in Interesting Times
Captain McCandless, the first person to perform an untethered spacewalk, will review the current status of our human spaceflight program — with its uncertainties, ongoing activities, opportunities, and long-term goals. He will also present a scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation to Paul Riggins ’12. Riggins is one of only 26 students nationwide this year to receive the prestigious award.
Sept. 20, 2011 Eric Fullerton (’84), University of California at San Diego
Exploiting the Spin Angular Momentum to Control Magnetism at the Nanoscale
In most magnetic applications the orientations of the magnetic elements are controlled by external magnetic fields. However, it has recently been appreciated that the relative orientations of nano-magnets can be controlled directly by the injection of spin-polarized currents known as spin-transfer effects. This results fundamentally from the transfer of angular momentum from the spin current to the magnetic material. While …
Sept. 6, 2011 Eleven HMC Physics Majors, Harvey Mudd College
Summer 2011 Off-Campus Research

Lucas Brady, Cameron Conti, Jake Fish, Chris Gage, Robert Hoyt, Erik Littleton, Laura Maguire, Shaun Pacheco, Carola Purser, Brad Perfect, Wylie Rosenthal, and Sophie Waldman will briefly describe their summer research experiences.

April 19, 2011 Persis S. Drell, SLAC
The Turn On of LCLS: The X-Ray Free-Electron Laser at SLAC
On April 10, 2009, the world’s first hard X-ray free-electron laser was brought to lasing. Producing an X-ray beam with more than a billion times higher peak brightness than the most powerful existing synchrotron sources, it marked the beginning of a new era of science. Since October 2009, users have been performing experiments at the SLAC Linac Coherent Light Source …
March 29, 2011 Alice Shapley, University of California at Los Angeles
The Contribution of Galaxies to the Reionization of the Universe
There are critical outstanding questions about the formation of galaxies, and their impact on the intergalactic medium (IGM). One important goal is to determine the origin of the ultraviolet radiation field that reionized the universe and maintained the ionization of the IGM. This question becomes more pressing as we discover ever more distant galaxies, probing back to the earliest epochs …
March 8, 2011 Gerard C. L. Wong, University of California at Los Angeles
Condensed Matter Physics and Bacteria
One of the unsolved problems in human health and disease is the control of pathogens, such as antibiotic-resistant forms of bacteria. In this talk, we will briefly describe three vignettes where physics-based approaches have been useful.

  1. Bacterial biofilms are structured multi-cellular communities that are notoriously resistant to antibiotics. By adapting algorithms from colloid physics, we translate bacteria movies …
March 1, 2011 Joseph Altepeter, Northwestern University
A Tale of Two Qubits
The nascent field of quantum information science is built on an irresistibly intriguing principle: knowledge is physical. The consequences of this deceptively simple statement include the possibility of quantum computers capable of solving certain problems exponentially faster than their classical counterparts and communication protocols whose security is guaranteed by the laws of physics. This talk will present the fundamentals of …
Feb. 1, 2011 Sabrina Leslie, Harvard University
Convex Lens-Induced Confinement: Enabling New Biophysical Measurements Under Previously Inaccessible Conditions
A wide range of physiological processes rely on weak intermolecular interactions that occur at high concentration, or over long time periods. Probing such interactions presents a challenge to fluorescence microscopy, the work horse for resolving biological processes at the molecular scale. To address this challenge, I present a novel and practical fluorescence imaging technique, convex lens induced confinement (CLIC), which …
Jan. 25, 2011 David Hanneke, University of Colorado at Boulder
Measuring the Electron Magnetic Moment
Measurements of the electron magnetic moment (the "g-value") probe the electron’s interaction with the fluctuating quantum vacuum. With a quantum electrodynamics calculation, they provide the most accurate determination of the fine structure constant. Comparisons with independent determinations of the fine structure constant are among the most precise tests of any physical theory. This talk will present an experiment that measures …
Jan. 18, 2011 Sharon Gerbode, Harvard University
Squishy Physics: Probing Complex Materials and Visualizing Statistical Mechanics at the Particle Scale
In introductory physics courses, we learn about an idealized frictionless world of rigid bodies and smooth surfaces. Yet the physics of everyday life is complex: soft, sticky, squishy and often far from equilibrium. Exploring the fundamental principles that underlie this complexity, soft matter physics thrives at the intersection of physics with biology, chemistry and engineering, offering many new directions for …
Nov. 30, 2010 Paul S. Nerenberg, University of California at Berkeley
Physics Meets Biology: Understanding Collagen Degradation With Computational Models
Collagen degradation is a physiological process necessary for regular tissue maintenance, but it is also a key player in the progression of several diseases, such as atherosclerosis, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis. Despite its considerable medical and scientific importance, the molecular mechanism of collagen degradation has resisted explanation for more than three decades. In my talk, I will outline computational approaches, …
Nov. 16, 2010 Antonio Aurilia, Cal Poly Pomona
Is There a Maximal Force In The Universe?
Modern physics brakes down the fundamental forces of nature into four components: gravity, electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force, and the strong nuclear force. Together, these four forces account for all the physical phenomena we observe in the universe. As remarkable as this is, many physicists today believe that the “four” interactions may be combined into just one fundamental interaction, including …
Nov. 2, 2010 Kevin Moore (’99), Department of Radiation Oncology at Washington University School of Medicine
Physicists in Medicine - From Battling Griffiths Problems to Battling Cancer
While we’ve all heard the old joke that physics saves lives because its introductory courses keep sub-par students out of medical school, physicists have, both historically and presently, contributed immensely to the advancement of medicine. This talk will survey the myriad roles physicists play in the medical field, with a special focus on a medical physicist’s responsibilities in the treatment …