Saturday Science Public Lectures

Spring 2017

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, March 25 - April 15, 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                              


Connecting the Large and the Small

Today’s physics connects the history of the universe, and the stars and planets in it, to the smallest parts of our universe: to rocks, cosmic dust, atoms, elementary particles, dark matter and dark energy. The Spring 2017 lecture series will explore some of these connections and explain how Washington University physics faculty are addressing fundamental questions about our universe in their research.

Mar 25: Michael Ogilvie

Dark Energy: Is Quantum Physics Making the Universe Fall Apart?
Our most recent experimental results indicate that most of our universe is made up of dark energy. This is just a name we give to something that is causing our universe to accelerate apart. The key to the possible origins of dark energy may lie in quantum mechanics and the very early history of our universe. We will discuss how we know dark energy is real, its possible origins, and how it may determine the ultimate fate of our universe.

Apr 1: Henric Krawczynski

Exploring the Spacetime Around Supermassive Black Holes with Gravitational Lenses
Albert Einstein's groundbreaking theory of General Relativity published in 1915 predicted that massive bodies deflected light, a prediction that was confirmed by Sir Arthur Eddington in 1919. An astonishing consequence of this property is that we can use galaxies in the distant Universe as magnifying glasses to study even more distant objects. I will report here on using a distant galaxy to study the X-ray emission from a quasar - a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy swallowing matter which shines brightly just before falling into the black hole. Interestingly, the X-rays observed with the Chandra X-ray telescope allow us to map out the curved spacetime close to the black hole, and to constrain the properties of the lensing galaxy, i.e. the ratio of the mass of dark matter and stars along the line of sight, and the typical masses of the stars.

Apr 8: Francesc Ferrer

In the wake of the Higgs, what could be the next breakthrough at the LHC?
The announcement five years ago of the discovery of the Higgs at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) gives support to the Standard Model which describes the interactions of fundamental particles with exquisite precision. At the same time, we are aware that the Standard Model is incomplete, since it fails to address the nature of the dark matter and dark energy that make up most of the Universe. We will review the properties of the Higgs boson and the ongoing searches for additional Higgs-like and dark matter particles that are predicted by supersymmetry. The future plans for an even larger collider will also be discussed.

Apr 15: Ryan Ogliore

From Stardust to the Solar System
Our solar system, full of exotic and diverse worlds, emerged from a disk of dust and gas four and a half billion years ago. From recent discoveries of planetary systems around other stars in our galaxy, we now know that the formation of the solar system was probably not a unique event. In this talk I will describe what we have learned about the formation and evolution of the solar system from actual planetary materials (moon rocks, meteorites, comet dust) measured in laboratories at Washington Univeristy and elsewhere.

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