Colloquium

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. 18, 2014 Clifford Johnson, University of Southern California
Black Holes and Holographic Heat Engines

New work has shown how to complete the correspondence between the physics of black holes and the laws of thermodynamics by incorporating volume and pressure into the formalism. This results in a change in the interpretation of the black hole's mass, and may give a new handle on understanding aspects of theories of gravity with non-vanishing cosmological constant. This subject ...

Nov. 4, 2014 Karen E. Daniels, North Carolina State University
Playing with Sand: Complex Behaviors from a Simple Material

Granular materials are integral to many parts of our daily lives, from the coffee beans that fuel our mornings to the coal that fuels our power plants. At first glance, these materials might appear simple: macroscopic dry, cohesionless particles which interact only by contact forces. However, they represent a complicated phase of matter neither wholly solid nor wholly liquid: a ...

Oct. 7, 2014 Jeffrey Filippini, Caltech
Listening for the Echoes of Inflation with BICEP2 and Beyond

Our modern account of cosmic history begins with a period of extraordinarily rapid expansion known as inflation. This epoch established the large-scale geometry and uniformity of our universe, as well as sowing the seeds of later galaxy formation. Inflation should further have imprinted a spectrum of primordial gravitational waves onto the universe at cosmological scales. These gravitational waves should have ...

Sept. 30, 2014 Vatche Sahakian, Harvey Mudd College
Whither Gravitational Waves
Sept. 16, 2014 HMC students, Harvey Mudd College
Off-campus summer research in physics

Kaew Tinyanont, Jim Wu, Miranda Thompson, Alex Kendrick, Allison Mis, Luke St Marie, and Celeste Melamed speak about their research experiences.

April 29, 2014 Bruce Schumm, University of California at Santa Cruz
Deep Down Beauty: Particle Physics, Mathematics, and the World Around Us

Almost everyone has heard of the Standard Model of Particle Physics, and, while stifling a yawn, can regurgitate its particle content: six quarks, a handful of force particles like the photon and gluon, and of course now the Higgs boson. But what many fewer enjoy is an appreciation for the deep underlying mathematical structure that, once grasped, reduces the principles ...

April 22, 2014 Omer Blaes, University of California at Santa Barbara
Dwarf to Super Novae: How Dead Stars Occasionally Light Up and Tell Us About the Universe

Billions of years in the future, our Sun will eventually run out of all of its fuel and will turn into an extraordinarily dense, Earth-sized star known as a white dwarf. Most white dwarfs, including our future Sun, slowly fade into oblivion, but if they can steal matter from another nearby star, they can rejuvenate themselves. Many such “new stars”, ...

April 8, 2014 Alan Guth and John Kovac, via edited video of a colloquium at Harvard from 25 March 2014, Harvey Mudd College
Peeking Under the Cosmic Veil

“For decades circumstantial evidence from observational cosmology has suggested that our universe may have started with a bang — an initial violent explosion and expansion of space known as inflation. As the universe expanded, it cooled down from an initial super hot and opaque primordial soup of mass and energy. At some point around 300,000 years after the initial bang, ...

March 25, 2014 Mark Johnson (’89), D-Wave
Observing Entanglement in a Quantum Annealing Processor

Quantum Annealing (QA) is an algorithm proposed as one of a potentially powerful set of methods to solve computationally hard problems. It is generally believed that a quantum algorithm must in some way harness entanglement to be able to provide any significant speed-up over classical algorithms. Unfortunately, the absence of microwave signals in the D-Wave processor, a system designed to ...

March 4, 2014 Scott Nguyen, Genie Oil & Gas
Unlocking Unconventional Resources

With the increasing world demand of energy and in particulartransportation fuel, new and alternative sources of energy must be found and developed. Unconventional resources in the form of shale oil could provide a substantial fraction of future energy demand. In this talk, we will discuss results from laboratory studies to understand the physics of and technology being developed to unlock ...

Feb. 25, 2014 Ernie Glover, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
An Atomic Scale View of Light-Matter Interactions

Light-matter interactions are central to a wide range of scientific and technological disciplines. Though optical interactions have been important to advancing our understanding of atoms, molecules, and materials, the microscopic details of how light manipulates matter are often poorly understood. A material's optical response is complex, determined by coupled manybody interactions that vary on an atomic length scale. While data ...

Feb. 18, 2014 Ania Bleszynski-Jayich, University of California at Santa Barbara
Quantum assisted sensing with diamond spins

Nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers in diamond are atomic-scale spin systems with remarkable quantum properties that persist to room temperature. They are highly sensitive to a wide variety of fields (magnetic, electric, thermal) and are easy to initialize, read-out, and manipulate on the individual spin level; thus they make excellent nanoscale sensors. The NV’s sensitivity is a double-edged sword however; environmental fluctuating ...

Feb. 4, 2014 Alex Small, Cal Poly Pomona
Theoretical Limits to Superresolution Fluorescence Microscopy

Superresolution microscopy techniques enable fluorescence imaging of live cells with subwavelength resolution. These techniques generally fall into two categories, depending on whether fluorescent molecules are controlled deterministically or stochastically. In stochastic techniques, fluorescent molecules blink on and off, with only a small fraction of them emitting light at any given time. Consequently, the molecules form non-overlapping blurs in the image ...

Jan. 21, 2014 Leslie Rodgers, Caltech
Glimpsing the Compositions of Sub-Neptune-Size Exoplanets

Sub-Neptune and super-Earth sized planets are a new planet category. They account for 80% of the planet candidates discovered by Kepler, and 0% of the planets in the Solar System. What is the nature of these sub-Neptune-size planets, how did they form, and why are they so numerous? I will review some highlights from the complement of exotic sub-Neptune-size planets ...

Nov. 19, 2013 Dan Steck, University of Oregon
Continuous Measurement of the Position of a Single Cold Atom: Towards the Quantum-Classical Transition

Quantum mechanics is fundamentally a theory of measurement, and recently a paradigm in quantum optics has arisen for describing the continuous measurement of quantum systems. Interesting phenomena can happen in continuously observed systems, due to the interplay of the dynamical evolution and the measurement process. In particular, the evolution of a quantum system under a continuous measurement process is both ...