February 19, 2021

Abhay Deshpande: Electron Ion Collider: A new collider in our backyard to study the super-God particle

Abstract: The Higgs Boson (Nobel 2013), a.k.a the “God Particle”, is responsible for the origin of mass for most of the massive fundamental particles (e.g. quarks) in the Standard Model observed in nature. However, the Higgs mechanism only contributes to less than 1% of the mass of the visible universe. The remaining 99% comes from the interactions of another boson called the “gluon” (hence my name “super-God particle”). How exactly does this happen? — We don’t yet know. Gluon is the massless force carrier responsible for the Strong Interactions that result in nuclear forces and hence, the visible universe. Thus the interactions of a massless gluon with almost massless quarks produce 99% of mass of the visible universe. (Does that surprise you?) Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD, Nobel 2004) is the underlying theory of strong interactions. Despite decades of study many fundamental questions related to the role of gluons remain unanswered: how do the gluons bind quarks inside the proton? What role do they play in imparting the proton its properties? How do they bind protons and neutrons for form the nuclei? An international group of scientists led by researchers at BNL and Stony Brook proposed a novel collider in 2002 to study the gluon. After many scientific and technological advances, and multiple reviews, in January 2020 the US Department of Energy announced that the new $2B collider be built at BNL — our “backyard”. In my talk, I will present the exciting physics of the Electron Ion Collider (EIC) and the prospects of its realization at BNL.

Bio: Prof. Deshpande is a professor of Physics in the department of Physics and Astronomy at Stony Brook University. His research focuses on understanding the structure of the smallest particles found in nature: the protons and neutrons that make up the entire visible universe in the framework of Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD). To understand their structure Prof. Deshpande has performed experiments at the European Nuclear and Particle Physics Laboratory (CERN) in Geneva, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, and the Thomas Jefferson Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) located in Newport News, VA. He is the director of the Center for Frontiers in Nuclear Science (CFNS), a joint effort between Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL). He is also the director of EIC science at BNL. Prof. Deshpande did his Ph.D. at Yale University in 1995, was a postdoctoral fellow at CERN, a RIKEN Fellow at the RIKEN-BNL Research Center. He joined Stony Brook University in 2004.

March 12, 2021

Laszlo Mihaly: The Physics of Ice and Snow

Abstract: This year’s winter was the coldest in several years, and we had great opportunities to enjoy (and suffer from) snow and ice. First, we will review the basic properties of snow and ice. We will explore questions like why is ice slippery? Why is it floating on water and what would happen if it did not? How do ice crystals grow? Is it possible to find two identical snowflakes? What are the “sun dogs” and how are they related to snow? Why do we hear a cracking noise when we walk on the snow? We will also discuss the two principal types of avalanches, the ice flow in the glaciers and the importance of the snow mass on the Antarctic continent.

Bio: Laszlo Mihaly is a Professor of Physics and SBU. He was born and educated in Hungary. He worked in Paris (Universite Paris-Sud), Grenoble (Institute Laue Langevin) and in Los Angeles (UCLA) before moving to Stony Brook in 1989. His research interest is condensed matter physics. He was the Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy from 2010 to 2016. He is Fellow of the American Physical Society and the AAAS and he is a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

April 30, 2021

Benjamin G. Levine: Better Living Through Quantum Mechanics and Computers (…and Chemistry)

Abstract: Chemistry has enabled many important technological developments. Environmentally friendly energy conversion devices, life-saving medicines, robust and inexpensive plastics, and a nearly endless list of other technologies are made possible by the knowledge of chemistry. Chemistry is fascinating, too! Today, computers have become powerful tools for understanding and predicting chemical behavior. Through the solution of the Schrodinger equation, the fundamental equation of quantum mechanics, computers can provide a detailed picture of chemical behavior that is literally impossible to gain through laboratory experiments. However, computational chemists constantly run up against the “curse of dimensionality,” the fact that predicting the behavior of a chemical system becomes exponentially more difficult as its size increases. This forces computational chemists to make approximations, which succeed in some instances and fail in others. Successes yield useful physical insights, while failures provide valuable feedback on how to improve our approximations. In this talk, I will discuss the origin of the curse of dimensionality; why is it impossible to exactly predict the behavior of even relatively small molecules? Then, through a series of examples from recent research in biochemistry, solar energy conversion, and other fields, I will discuss the current state of the art; what kinds of problems can computational chemists reliably solve today, and what can we reasonably hope to be able to do in the future?

Bio: Benjamin G. Levine is a theoretical/computational chemist whose research focuses on developing and applying computational methods for simulating nonradiative processes—physical processes that convert electronic energy into vibrational energy—in molecules and materials. He earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Ph.D. in Chemistry from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2001 and 2007, respectively. After performing postdoctoral work at University of Pennsylvania and Temple University, Ben joined Michigan State University as an assistant professor in 2011. He moved to Stony Brook University as the Institute for Advanced Computational Science Endowed Professor of Chemistry in August 2020. Ben has 70 scientific publications. His work was recognized by the 2017 Journal of Physical Chemistry A/PHYS Lectureship and the 2017 OpenEye Outstanding Junior Faculty Award in Computational Chemistry.