Physics and Astronomy Colloquia, Academic Year 2020-2021

Colloquium committee: Marivi Fernandez-Serra (Chair), Will Farr, Dmitri Kharzeev, Rouven Essig and Giacinto Piacquadio

Talk begins at 4:15 pm.

Location: Virtual

Movies:  To watch the recorded movies, please  read the instructions here.


Fall 2020 colloquia

Nov 10

Steven M. Girvin

Yale University

Progress and Prospects for the Second Quantum Revolution

The first quantum revolution brought us the great technological advances of the 20th century—the transistor, the laser, the atomic clock and GPS, the global positioning system. A ‘second quantum revolution’ is now underway based on our relatively new understanding of how information can be stored, manipulated and communicated using strange quantum hardware that is neither fully digital nor fully analog. We now realize that 20th century hardware does not take advantage of the full power of quantum machines. This talk will give a gentle introduction to the basic concepts that underlie this quantum information revolution and describe recent remarkable experimental progress in the race to build quantum machines for computing, sensing and communication.
  [recorded movies]  

Dec 1

Charles Horowitz

Indiana University

The neutron skin in 208Pb and the structure of neutron stars

The heavy nucleus 208Pb, with 44 more neutrons than protons, has a neutron rich skin. The PREX collaboration has now measured the thickness of this skin using parity violating electron scattering. This constrains properties of neutron rich matter similar to the matter found in neutron stars. I compare PREX’s results for 208Pb to LIGO gravitational wave observations of a neutron star merger and to NICER X-ray telescope observations of the curvature of space near a neutron star.
  [recorded movies]  


Spring 2021 colloquia

Feb 2


Stony Brook University University

Chairs Colloquium

  [recorded movies]  

Feb 9, time 4:45 pm

Carl Wieman

Standford University

Taking a Scientific Approach to Science Education

Guided by experimental tests of theory and practice, science has advanced rapidly in the past 500 years. Guided primarily by tradition and dogma, science education meanwhile has remained largely medieval. Research on how people learn is now revealing much more effective ways to teach and evaluate learning than what is in use in the traditional science class. Students and instructors find such teaching more rewarding, and it also shows students how to learn most effectively. This research is setting the stage for a new approach to teaching and learning that can provide the relevant and effective science education for all students that is needed for the 21st century, whatever their choice of major. I will also cover more meaningful and effective ways to measure the quality of teaching. Although the focus of the talk is on undergraduate science and engineering teaching, where the data is the most compelling, the underlying principles come from studies of the general development of expertise and apply widely.
  [recorded movies]  

Feb 16, time 4:45 pm

Zein-Eddine Meziani

Argonne Nat. Laboratory

Origin of the Visible Universe -- Unraveling of the Proton Mass from Jefferson Lab to the Electron-Ion Collider.

The Higgs mechanism is responsible for the masses of the elementary particles in the standard model of particle physics but not nucleons and nuclei, thus not of the mass of the visible universe. Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) is responsible for providing mass to nucleons and nuclei through the "trace anomaly" - a consequence of broken scale invariance. I shall discuss new results and future experiments of J/psi's threshold photoproduction on the proton at Jefferson Lab and I will also consider future Upsilon's threshold production at an Electron-Ion Collider (EIC) to explore questions at the heart of nuclear physics using the fundamental degrees of freedom quarks and gluons. Among them: What is the origin of the proton mass? Do heavy quarkonia enable the LHCb charm pentaquarks to exist? What is the strength of the color Van der Waals force between quarkonium and the nucleon? Are bound states of quarkonium-nuclei possible. The SoLID project at Jefferson Lab will provide the needed luminosity and acceptance to study the charmonium production near threshold with exquisite detail, while the EIC will be unmatched for the upsilon production. These two projects will help us dive deeper into our understanding of non-perturbative QCD and the structure of the nucleon.
  [recorded movies]  

Feb 23, time 4:45 pm

Jonathan Lee Feng

University of California Irvine

Faster, Smaller, Cheaper: FASER and the New Frontier in Particle Searches at the LHC

For decades the leading attempts to find new fundamental particles have been large undertakings, requiring decades of effort, thousands of physicists, and billions of dollars. More recently, however, new ideas have led to novel opportunities for discovery with relatively fast, small, and cheap experiments. In this talk, I will explain how this new approach came to be; describe FASER, the Forward Search Experiment at CERN; and speculate about what a discovery could mean for our understanding of the universe.
  [movies file not available]  

March 9, time 4:00 pm

JJ Gomez-Cadenas

Donostia International Physics Center

Searching for the Grail

More than eighty years ago Ettore Majorana, proposed that the neutrino could be its own antiparticle. As of today, Majorana neutrinos are still our best idea to explain the cosmic asymmetry between matter and antimatter. Neutrinoless double beta decay (bbonu) experiments are the only practical way to interrogate nature about the nature of neutrinos. But, due to the smallness of neutrino mass, the lifetime of the bb0nu process, if it exists is predicted to be very long. Thus experiments deploying several tons of rare isotopes such as Xe-136 are needed. On the other hand, the potencial background from natural radioactivity to a putative bb0nu decay is huge, so finding the bb0nu signal could be as difficult as identifying a single grain of sand in a large beach. We already know that lifetimes in the range of 10^27 years or even 10^28 years may need to be explored, which in turn implies designing setups which are virtually background free. Demonstrating that the neutrino is its own antiparticle becomes, thus, a true quest for the holy Grail, which only the bravest and purest of heart can attempt.
  [recorded movies]  

March 16, time 4:00 pm

Anna Watts

University of Amsterdam

A NICER view of neutron stars

NICER, the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer, is an X-ray telescope that was installed on the International Space Station in 2017. Its mission is to study the nature of the densest matter in the Universe, found in the cores of neutron stars. NICER uses Pulse Profile Modeling, a technique that exploits relativistic effects on X-rays emitted from the hot magnetic polar caps of millisecond pulsars. The technique also lets us map the hot emitting regions, which form as magnetospheric particles slam into the stellar surface. I will present NICER's current results and ongoing analysis, and discuss the implications for our understanding of ultra-dense matter, pulsar emission, and stellar magnetic fields.
  [recorded movies]  

March 30, time 4:00 pm

Alan Calder

Stony Brook University

  [recorded movies]  

April 13, time 4:00 pm

Tanja Bosak


Mars Perseverance Rover Mission

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April 20, time 4:00 pm

Susan Pepper

Brookhaven National Laboratory

The Interaction of Science, Policy, and International Safeguards.

  [movies file not available]  

May 4th, time 4:00 pm

Matt Dawber

Stony Brook University

Graduate Colloquium

  [recorded movies]