O.M. Stewart Colloquium

Every Monday, at 4 PM the department of Physics and Astronomy hosts the O. M. Stewart Colloquium, in rm 120, Physics Bldg.

Refreshments are served starting at 3:30 PM in the Physics Library (rm 223, second floor).

2021
Fall Semester
Date Speaker/Title/Abstract
10/4/21 Ben Krewson, Troy Schneider, Lauryn Williams, Brandon Lee
Physics majors present their research

Ben KrewsonDefect Dynamics and Selection for Quenched Striped Patterns

We study transverse modulational dynamics of striped pattern formation in the wake of a directional quenching mechanism. Such mechanisms have been proposed to control pattern-forming systems and suppress defect formation in many different physical settings, such as light-sensing reaction-diffusion equations, solidification of alloys, and eutectic lamellar crystal growth. Furthermore, they are a simple model of a growth process in a patterned biological system. In the context of the complex Ginzburg-Landau and Swift-Hohenberg equations, two prototypical models of pattern formation, we show that long-wavelength and slowly varying modulations of striped patterns are governed by a one-dimensional viscous Burgers equation, with viscous and nonlinear coefficients determined by the quenched stripe selection mechanism. This reduced model allows for accurate description of defect dynamics as shock/rarefaction dynamics.

Troy SchneiderStructured Glass-Ceramic Scintillators  

We studied compounds with a desirable x-ray mass attenuation coefficient, such as Terbium Oxide and Gadolinium Fluoride, which are very good at absorbing x-rays and turning them into visible light. This makes them quite useful in medical imaging devices such as x-rays. We varied the amount of these chemicals and observed the changes in the glass-ceramic. We also looked into alternative chemicals with better mass attenuation coefficients. We found that the Terbium Oxide and the Gadolinium Fluoride were very useful in attenuating x-rays, and that altering the percentages of a few other materials in the glass, such as Calcium Fluoride, produced a more stable glass at high energies. 

Lauryn WilliamsIdentifying Dynamical Masses of Long Period Companions using Orbit Fitting Code with HGCA Astrometry

Sweeping advances in space telescopes paired with the innovative methods of computational astronomy give us a unique opportunity to detect and measure the dynamical masses of substellar companions orbiting stars outside our solar system. ESA’s space based HIPPARCOS and Gaia observatories have yielded precise astrometric measurements that -- when combined-- open a window on the detailed astrometric behavior of stars. Brandt et al. 2021 recently created the cross-calibration Hipparcos-Gaia Catalog of Accelerations (HGCA). In this work, we concentrate on 46 accelerating stars within 20pc of our sun focusing on those objects with long-term precise radial velocity curves from Keck’s HIgh Resolution Echelle Spectrometer (HIRES). Combining the acceleration information with the radial velocity curve, we use the complex orbit-fitting code called ORVARA (Orbits from Radial Velocity, Absolute, and/or Relative Astrometry), to obtain explicit constraints on the dynamical masses of the companions. Preliminary results have yielded the dynamical masses for companions around two well studied stars: 14 Her and 15 Sge. There remain 44 sources within 20pc that can be further analyzed. Studies of these accelerating stars are a pathway to understanding the hidden multiplicity fraction of our solar neighborhood. This research was possible through the RGGS-AMNH REU Program, funded by the National Science Foundation.

Brandon LeeStellarator Coil Optimization Supporting Multiple Magnetic Configurations

Effective and efficient stellarator optimization is of great interest to the nuclear fusion community. Our goal in this work is to develop techniques that can be used to design devices capable of supporting multiple magnetic configurations. Such devices would presumably be much more economical than those optimized for a single magnetic configuration. We utilize PyPlasmaOpt, a Python package that couples coil and vacuum field optimization, as our base software. Our primary methods for adding flexibility to the coil design are adjusting the currents in the modular coils and adding control coils to the device. We find that changing the currents in the modular coils without the addition of control coils leads to flexible stellarators with very irregular coil shapes and minute plasma volumes. By adding control coils, we introduce enough degrees of freedom to achieve multiple magnetic configurations with one coil configuration while maintaining reasonable coil shapes and low quasisymmetry error and creating larger plasma volumes. We add quadratic flux minimizing surfaces to the optimizations to increase the plasma volumes further. Overall, we achieve greater flexibility by accounting for multiple magnetic configurations during the coil design stage.

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9/27/21 Prof. John Cumings, University of Maryland College Park
Water Ice and Spin Ice: Ground States and Topological Defects

Our planet is called Earth, but based on the surface composition, perhaps it should have been called Water. Despite the ubiquitous presence on our planet, water's solid form, ice does not readily enter the ground state upon cooling, owing to residual disorder of the hydrogen atoms in the lattice. In the 1990s, a class of magnetic ceramic materials was discovered, with similar behavior of its magnetic moments as the protons in ice, and these materials came to be known as Spin Ice. In a cleanroom facility, researchers today can design nanoscale magnetic latticework structures that mimic the behavior of spin ices and water ices, with the advantage that the interactions and behavior can be controlled by design. Such materials are known as Artificial Spin Ice, and I will present work on the behavior of these materials when intentional defects are programmed into the latticework. These artificial defects mimic the real defects that are known to occur in a wide range of materials, including water ice and the ceramics phases that play host to the spin ices. The implications for other ground state phases, such as high temperature superconductors, will be discussed.

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9/13/21 Marco Govoni
TBD

Abstract TBD

Spring Semester
Date Speaker/Title/Abstract
4/19/21 John F. Marko, Northwestern University
Loop extrusion, chromatin crosslinking, and the geometry, topology and mechanics of chromosomes and nuclei

The chromosomes of eukaryotic cells are based on tremendously long DNA molecules that must be replicated and then physically separated to allow successful cell division.  I will discuss what we have learned about chromosome structure from our group's biophysical experiments and mathematical modeling of chromosome structure. A key emerging feature of chromosome organization is the role of active chromatin loop formation, or "loop extrusion" as a mechanism leading to chromosome compaction, individualization, and segregation.  I will discuss a number of aspects of the SMC complexes thought to be the loop-extruding elements. I will also discuss our group's studies of the role of chromosomal epigenetic marks in control of the structure and integrity of the cell nucleus.

4/12/21 Smitha Vishveshwara, UIUC
Exploring anyons and black holes-like dynamics in flatland

The world and the Universe we live in are composed of fermions and bosons. The quantum statistics of these particles overwhelmingly governs what we see around us. But  one could wonder, can other kinds of quantum particles exist? I will begin this colloquium with an introduction of quantum statistics and the fascinating possible existence of anyons, particles which obey 'fractional' statistics.  

The quantum Hall system forms a marvelous two-dimensional realm for hosting many rich phenomena, including fractional statistics. I will describe how anyons can emerge in this setting, how they could be detected borrowing from beam-splitter and other principles used to detect bosons and fermions, and how landmark experiments of last year did perform such detection. I will also illustrate how the same setting can probe dynamics akin to that found in the astrophysical realm of black holes. Specifically, point-contact geometries can exhibit phenomena parallel to Hawking-Unruh radiation and black hole quasinormal modes associated with ringdowns in gravitational wave detection.  

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4/5/21 Prof. Dam Thanh Son, University of Chicago
Strongly-interacting systems: from fractional quantum Hall effect to field-theoretic dualities

Quantum systems with strong interaction exist in many branches of physics and present a challenge for theory. We will discuss some recent methods to solve the problem, focusing on one  particular example: the fractional quantum Hall fluid. Many phenomena occurring in this fluid can be explained by postulating a new type of quasiparticle - the composite fermion. I will describe theories of this composite fermion, in particular the recently proposed "Dirac composite fermion theory", and how research in condensed matter physics has stimulated the discovery of a large number of new dualities between quantum field theories, previously unknown to high-energy physics. 

2/22/21 Dr. Alan Robock, Rutgers University
Climatic and Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear War

A nuclear war between any two nations, such as India and Pakistan, with each country using 50 Hiroshima-sized atom bombs as airbursts on urban areas, could inject 5 Tg of soot from the resulting fires into the stratosphere, so much smoke that the resulting climate change would be unprecedented in recorded human history.  Our climate model simulations find that the smoke would absorb sunlight, making it dark, cold, and dry at Earth’s surface and produce global-scale ozone depletion, with enhanced ultraviolet radiation reaching the surface.  The changes in temperature, precipitation, and sunlight from the climate model simulations, applied to crop models show that these perturbations would reduce global agricultural production of the major food crops for a decade. Since India and Pakistan now have more nuclear weapons with larger yields, and their cities are larger, even a war between them could produce emissions of 27 or even 47 Tg of soot.

My current research project, being conducted jointly with scientists from the University of Colorado, Columbia University, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, is examining in detail, with city firestorm and global climate models, various possible scenarios of nuclear war and their impacts on agriculture and the world food supply.  Using six crop models we have simulated the global impacts on the major cereals for the 5 Tg case.  The impact of the nuclear war simulated here, using much less than 1% of the global nuclear arsenal, could sentence a billion people now living marginal existences to starvation.  By year 5, maize and wheat availability would decrease by 13% globally and by more than 20% in 71 countries with a cumulative population of 1.3 billion people.  In view of increasing instability in South Asia, this study shows that a regional conflict using <1% of the worldwide nuclear arsenal could have adverse consequences for global food security unmatched in modern history. The greatest nuclear threat still comes from the United States and Russia.  Even the reduced arsenals that remain in 2020 due to the New START Treaty threaten the world with nuclear winter.  The world as we know it could end any day as a result of an accidental nuclear war between the United States and Russia.  With temperatures plunging below freezing, crops would die and massive starvation could kill most of humanity.

As a result of international negotiations pushed by civil society led by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and referencing our work, the United Nations passed a Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons on July 7, 2017.  On December 10, 2017, ICAN accepted the Nobel Peace Prize “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”  Will humanity now pressure the United States and the other eight nuclear nations to sign this treaty?  The Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction is working to make that happen.

Bio: Dr. Alan Robock is a distinguished professor of climate science in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University, associate editor of the journal Reviews of Geophysics, Lead Author of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and a former Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines, and has been researching the climatic and agricultural impacts of nuclear war for the past 35 years.

Join Zoom Meeting: https://umsystem.zoom.us/j/94685134794?pwd=c0x4bzlmNjlrck10Wmp6SWp2YzkvUT09

Speaker(s):  Dr. Alan Robock, Rutgers University Host:  Prof. Deepak Singh