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
March 10, 2009 Peter Taborek (’74), University of California at Irvine
Singularities in Fluid Flows from Superfluids to Bubbles to Chicken Soup
Fluids can form droplets that pinch off from each other in many situations ranging from ink jet printers to the kitchen sink. The phenomena that occur a few microseconds from pinch-off involve a balance of surface tension forces, inertia, and viscosity. Droplet pinch-off is an example of a nonlinear phenomenon that leads to finite time power law singularities and striking …
Feb. 24, 2009 Oskar Painter, Caltech
Nano-opto Mechanics: Utilizing Light Forces Within Guided-Wave Nanostructures
The fact that light carries momentum and can exert a mechanical force was first proposed by Kepler and Newton. The interaction of light with sound waves, in the form of Brillouin and Raman scattering, has been known since the 1920s and has many practical applications in the fields of spectroscopy and optoelectronics. With the advent of the laser in 1960s, …
Feb. 10, 2009 Roland Kawakami, University of California at Riverside
The Anatomy of a Spintronic Device
Since its inception, solid-state electronics has relied on the charge degree-of-freedom to store and process information. With the 1988 discovery of giant magnetoresistance and its remarkable impact on hard-drive technology, the question has turned to whether it is possible to utilize the spin degree-of-freedom in semiconductor electronics for superior performance in some aspect (e.g. speed, power, function, etc.). Although there …
Jan. 27, 2009 Jenny Hoffman, Harvard University
Exploring a New Family of High-:mil:`T_c` Superconductors: the Iron-Arsenides
I will give a review of superconductivity research over the last century, culminating in the recent, exciting discovery of a second family of high-\( T_c \) superconductors based on iron and arsenic. We are now studying these new superconductors using a low temperature scanning tunneling microscope (STM), built with the help of two Harvey Mudd alums, now graduate students at …
Dec. 2, 2008 Warren Rogers (’81), Westmont College
The Study of Exotic Nuclei and its Application to Astrophysical Systems
Some of the most interesting questions in nuclear physics research today deal with understanding the creation of the elements in the periodic table in explosive astrophysical systems. Elements that are not created by the "slow" stellar nucleosynthesis S-process are thought to be created by the very rapid and less well understood R- and RP-processes. Our research program at the National …
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 …