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 4, 2006 Physics Faculty, Harvey Mudd College
Recent Physics News, as Reported by Faculty Members of the Department of Physics
  • "The Arrival of the Cassini Spacecraft at Saturn and the Successful Landing of the Huygens Probe on the Moon Titan" -- Greg Lyzenga
  • "The Demonstration of Pyrofusion" -- Tom Donnelly
  • "Superfluidity in an Ultracold Gas of Fermions" --Vatche Sahakian
  • "The Brightest Burst of Light Ever Recorded From Outside the Solar System" -- Ann Esin
March 21, 2006 Re’em Sari, Caltech
The Formation of the Solar System
How do planets form and how long does it take? Why are their orbits circular and coplanar? What set the number of planets in our solar system? We address these fundamental questions providing a coherent story on the formation of our solar system.
March 7, 2006 John Clarke, University of California at Berkeley
The Ubiquitous SQUID: From Cosmology to Medicine
Many materials become superconducting at sufficiently low temperatures. In the superconducting state, electrons of opposite momentum and spin form Cooper pairs. These pairs constitute a single, macroscopic quantum state that is described by a quantum mechanical wave function with well defined amplitude and phase. This quantum state is responsible for the zero-electrical resistance of superconductors and for such properties as …
Feb. 21, 2006 Michael Wood-Vasey (’98), Harvard University
The Accelerating Universe and You: The Past, Present, and Future of Exploring the Universe With Supernovae
The field of cosmology has been revolutionized in the last decade by the discovery that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating. This remarkable conclusion was first derived by using Type Ia supernovae as standardizable cosmological candles. Since this initial work, a number of complementary cosmological measurements have led to our current "concordance" cosmological model that states that 70% of …
Jan. 31, 2006 Theresa Lynn, Caltech
Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays: The Mystery of Nature’s Most Powerful Particle Accelerators

Stargazing is perhaps one of humanity’s oldest pastimes. As modern astronomers have learned to image the universe in wavelengths across the electromagnetic spectrum, each added picture has answered old questions and uncovered new wonders.

In recent years a few observatories have concentrated on very different messengers from the cosmos: subatomic particles called cosmic rays which reach us from as nearby …

Jan. 24, 2006 Martin Madsen, University of Michigan
Experimental Quantum Mechanics: Exploring the Quantum World One Atom at a Time
"Atoms on a small scale behave like nothing on a large scale, for they satisfy the laws of quantum mechanics," observed Richard Feynman, one of the most brilliant physicists of the 20th century. We can now explore the unusual behavior of a single atom through the combination of an electrical trap and lasers that enable us to isolate and control …
Jan. 17, 2006 Erik Helgren, University of California at Berkeley
Optical Properties of Disordered Systems: Terahertz Spectroscopy of Doped Silicon
The terahertz (THz) spectral range has been under-utilized in the past both in fundamental research as well as in commercial applications. This spectral range is extremely important for studying condensed matter systems because the photon energy associated with THz frequencies is sub-meV, a typical energy for correlated electron physics; for instance this energy corresponds to the Cooper pair binding energy …
Nov. 28, 2005 Douglas Osheroff, Stanford University
The Discovery of Superfluid :mil:`\mathrm{He}^3` as Seen Through the Eyes of a Graduate Student
It was at the beginning of his fifth year of graduate study that Douglas Osheroff discovered evidence for the existence of two unexpected phase transitions in a mixture of liquid and solid He3, both within three thousandths of a degree of absolute zero. The speaker will describe this event, and give his personal account of the excitement and confusion that …
Nov. 15, 2005 David Awschalom, University of California at Santa Barbara
Spintronics, Semiconductors, Molecules, and Quantum Information Processing
There is a growing interest in exploiting electronic and nuclear spins in semiconductor nanostructures for the manipulation and storage of information in emergent technologies based upon spintronics and quantum logic. Such schemes offer qualitatively new scientific and technological opportunities by combining elements of standard electronics with spin-dependent interactions between electrons, nuclei, electric and magnetic fields. Here we provide an overview …
Nov. 8, 2005 Nathan Lewis, Caltech
Scientific Challenges in Sustainable Energy Technology
This presentation will describe and evaluate the challenges, both technical, political, and economic, involved with widespread adoption of renewable energy technologies.
  • First, we estimate the available fossil fuel resources and reserves based on data from the World Energy Assessment and World Energy Council. In conjunction with the current and projected global primary power production rates, we then estimate …
Oct. 25, 2005 Mark Beck, Whitman College
Interference, Complementarity, Entanglement and All That Jazz
Technology has advanced to the point where it is possible for undergraduates to perform experiments exploring fundamental aspects of quantum mechanics--experiments observing behavior such as wave-particle duality, entanglement, and nonlocality. At Whitman College we are developing a series of such undergraduate laboratories, and I will describe some of these. In one we perform an interference experiment with single photons where …
Oct. 11, 2005 Gabriela Canalizo, University of California at Riverside
Galaxy Collisions and the Birth of Quasars
Quasars are some of the most powerful objects in the Universe, and their study allows us to probe the early Universe. However, there are still many uncertainties regarding their nature and, in particular, the way in which they are formed. In this talk, I review the role of supermassive black holes, starbursts, and galaxy collisions in the life of quasars.
Sept. 27, 2005 Thomas D. Donnelly, Harvey Mudd College
Production and Application of an Aerosol of Micron-Scale Particles
A device that uses ultrasonic atomization of a liquid to produce an aerosol of micron-scale droplets will be discussed. This device represents a new approach to producing targets relevant to laser-driven fusion studies, and to the relatively untested subfield of nonlinear optics in which wavelength-scale targets are irradiated. The device has also made possible tests of fluid dynamics models in …
Sept. 13, 2005 Kerry Vahala, Caltech
:mil:`Q` > Million Optical Microresonators on Silicon Chips
A novel laser processing method has been applied to create optical micro-resonators having Q factors as high as 500 million on silicon wafers. The combination of Ultra-high-Q and small mode volume opens up new applications for wafer based resonators. In this talk I will first review the processing and passive optical properties of these devices and then describe their application …
Sept. 6, 2005 HMC juniors and seniors, Harvey Mudd College
What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Off-Campus Summer Research Experiences