Saturday Science Public Lectures

Spring 2016

by Dr. Michael Friedlander

This semester, the Department of Physics and University College will again sponsor a series of lectures that will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday mornings, April 9 - April 30, in the Hughes Lecture Room, Room 201 in Crow Hall. Lectures will presented by faculty members of the Department of Physics and are tailored for the general public. Over weekends, parking is available in any yellow-permit lot.

For more information, please contact the Department of Physics at (314) 935-6276.

These lectures are free and open to the public; no registration is required.

-Mike Friedlander                              

Frontiers of Science

The frontiers of science are always changing, responding to new discoveries, new theories, new facilities and even changing funding priorities. This semester’s Saturday Science lectures will offer you a look at where we are today in some selected areas of physics research from the perspective of researchers in those fields. Four members of the physics faculty at Washington University will explain where we are today, how we got here and where those fields might be headed.

April 9: Carl Bender

Physics and Complex Numbers
Mathematicians have found it enlightening to extend the real number system to the complex number system. Complex numbers are fascinating in their own right and furthermore they help us to understand the nature of the real numbers. It has been my life's work as a theoretical physicist to examine what happens when we extend real physical theories to complex physical theories. This talk explains in simple terms some of the remarkable insights that we gain by doing so.

April 16: Ralf Wessel

Vision Emerging
Arguably the biggest goal in modern neuroscience is to gain a deeper and more complete understanding of complex neural circuits in brains. A striking phenomenon of complex neural systems is visual perception. In broad strokes, it is intriguing to hypothesize that visual perception emerges from the interaction between incoming stimuli and the internal dynamic state of neural networks. I will present recent progress in testing this tantalizing hypothesis.

April 23: Kater Murch

Splitting hairs over the distance to nearest star: How LIGO pushes the limits of quantum measurement detect gravity waves
On September 14, 2015, ripples in space time – gravity waves waves were detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO). This profound discovery will surely usher in a new era of astronomy as we view the universe through gravity rather than light waves. Although the detected gravity waves were created by an incredibly violent event some 1.3 billion years ago, their signature in September was so faint that it required measurements that push the limits of quantum mechanics. We will discuss why quantum mechanics limits the precision of measurements and how LIGO and other researchers are currently exploring and pushing the limits of measurement in quantum mechanics.

April 30: Michael Ogilvie

Extreme Particle Physics
As we look around us in space and forwards and backwards in time, we see that sometimes the universe is pushed to its limits: very high temperatures, unbelievably dense matter, and ultra-strong electric, magnetic and gravitational fields. This is the domain of extreme particle physics, where fundamental theoretical physics confronts the harshest environments found in our universe. We will explore the conditions right after the big bang and inside particle accelerators, and I’ll explain how my own work fits into this large area of research.

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