Saturday Science Public Lectures

The Department of Physics and University College will again sponsor a series of public lectures, to be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday mornings, October 20th – November 10th. Due to campus construction, all lectures will be held in McMillan G052. This building is directly across from the parking garage off Forest Park Parkway; parking is free on Saturdays. These lectures, which are free and open to the public, will be presented by faculty members of the Department of Physics and are tailored for the general public. More information may be obtained from Ady Haas at 935-6276.


Fall 2018: To Infinity and Beyond: Physics and Astronomy Today

This is a great era for astrophysics: new experimental tools are allowing us to see the universe literally with new eyes. At the same time, there are unresolved fundamental questions about the nature of our universe. The Fall 2018 Saturday Science series will offer perspectives on what we know today, and what we may learn in the near future.

Oct 20: Francesc Ferrer

Gravitational waves from black hole mergers: did LIGO detect dark matter?
One of the most fascinating predictions of Einstein's theory of gravity is the existence of black holes: objects that are so dense that not even light can escape their powerful gravitational attraction. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) has recently discovered the presence of a population of black holes that could constitute the dark matter in the universe. In this talk we will discuss the implications of these results, as well as the observations of the super-massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way by the Event Horizon telescope.

Oct 27: Michael Ogilvie

Looking Back at the First Three Minutes
In 1977, the Nobel prize winner Steven Weinberg published The First Three Minutes. This award-winning book was an early indication of the close relationship that would develop between astrophysics and particle physics in the coming decades. We will explore Weinberg’s timeline of the first three minutes of our universe, filling in all the new physics since its publication: dark matter, dark energy, the quark-gluon plasma, the electroweak phase transition and more.

Nov 3: Michael Nowak

If Black Holes are Black, Then How Do We See Them?
Astrophysical black holes are in some ways the simplest objects in Nature, being described by only two quantities: mass and spin. A major goal of astrophysical research into these objects has been to measure their mass and spin, and then further determine if we see the associated "exotic" effects of the warping of space time predicted by Einstein's General Theory Relativity. However, because black holes are in fact (for all practical purposes) black voids, we cannot test these theories with direct observations of them, but instead we look to see how they affect their surroundings. In this talk I will describe recent radio, infrared, and very importantly X-ray observations of material surrounding black holes point towards the verifiable existence of these exotic objects. Furthermore I will describe evidence that we are in fact observing the effects of a black holes extreme gravity on their surrounding environment and are seeing manifestations of General Relativity. Finally, I will discuss the efforts currently being made by the Event Horizon Telescope, which may in the not too distant future, provide us with our first image of a black hole.

Nov 10: Bhupal Dev

Neutrinos from Heaven to Hell and Beyond
Neutrinos are one of the most abundant particles in the universe and are constantly streaming through our bodies unnoticed. Because of their extreme shyness to interact with ordinary matter, it takes extraordinary ingenuity and humongous detectors to catch these ghostlike particles in earthly experiments. This was a rewarding endeavor and led to the discovery of neutrino oscillations -- the first ever laboratory evidence for physics beyond the Standard Model. The neutrino game is far from being over: rather this is just the beginning of a remarkable journey into the uncharted land, with many current and upcoming experiments poised to make the big push to the unknown. We will discuss how these teeny-tiny neutrinos could help us unravel the well-kept secrets of the cosmos. In particular, we will highlight some recent exciting developments that have led to the birth of the multi-messenger neutrino astronomy.

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