Physics General Interest Seminar Podcasts
These are podcasts of general interest seminars held at the School of Physics and Astronomy.
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Cochlear implants are the first device to successfully restore neural function. They have instigated a popular but controversial revolution in the treatment of deafness, and they serve as a model for research in neuroscience and biomedical engineering. In this talk the physiology of natural hearing will be reviewed from the perspective of a physicist, and the function of cochlear implants will be described in the context of historical treatments, electrical engineering, psychophysics, clinical evaluation of efficacy and personal experience. The social implications of cochlear implantation and the future outlook for auditory prostheses will also be discussed.
- Powerpoint Slides(19MB) - The powerpoint used during the presentation
Using the multi-MJ laser at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California, a breakthrough in exploring matter at high compression, to 1000-fold initial density, is underway thanks to experimental developments associated with achieving inertially confined fusion in the laboratory. High-energy lasers can now manipulate the energy density of matter to atomic pressures, i.e. the pressure required to significantly distort core electron orbitals. Improvements in controlling dynamic compression paths enable the exploration of solids and fluids to >10s of TPa (> 100 million atmospheres pressure), and the incipient stages of inertial fusion. I will describe recent experimental results revealing quite exotic behavior of matter at extreme compression and our effort to understand and control material microphysics and gradients on the way to inertial fusion. Apologies for break in recording at 16:40 - technical problems...
- National Ignition Facility - The world's largest laser, the National Ignition Facility (NIF), is located at Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL) in the US.
On the 4th of July 2012, the ATLAS and CMS collaborations at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN announced the discovery of a new fundamental subatomic particle, with a mass of around 125 GeV, 133 times the mass of the proton. All current observations point to the fact this particle is the Higgs boson, a particle which explains the mass of other subatomic particles, as was first predicted in 1964 by Edinburgh University Emeritus Professor Peter Higgs.
Our very own Dr Victoria Martin is one of 15 Edinburgh members of the ATLAS collaboration. She will explain the how the new particle was found, the contributions of the Edinburgh team, the implications of the new particle and what's next for Higgs boson physics with the ATLAS experiment.
- Presentation Slides - The slides for the talk - available as PDF (48MB!)
We learn at school that Isaac Newton is the father of modern optics, that Copernicus heralded the birth of astronomy, and that it is Snell's law of refraction. But what is the debt these men owe to the physicists and astronomers of the medieval Islamic Empire?
Men such as ibn al-Haytham, the greatest physicist in the two thousand year span between Archimedes and Newton, and whose Book of Optics was just as influential as Newton's seven centuries later; or Avicenna and Biruni the Persian polymaths who argued over such topics as why ice floats and whether parallel universes exist; or Ibn Sahl who came up with the correct law of refraction many centuries before Snell; or the astronomers al-Tusi and ibn al-Shatir, without whom Copernicus would not have been able to formulate his heliocentric model of the solar system.
In this lecture I will describe these characters and their forgotten contribution to physics and astronomy.Links:
- Presentation Slides - The slides for the talk - available as Powerpoint (7MB)
- Video version of seminar (Youtube) - A video of the seminar up to (but not including) question/answer session
- Jim Al-Khalili's Website - Find out more about Professor Jim Al-Khalili's - the theoretical physicist, broadcaster, author.
- Marialuisa Aliotta's interview with Jim Al-Khalili - Marialuisa Aliotta interviews Jim Al-Khalili on the subject of the career, choices, and opportunities of a scientist and broadcaster.
Neutrinos are the only hint for physics beyond the Standard Model. While the hierarchy problem, gauge coupling unification and dark matter give rise to hope for a direct discovery of new physics at the LHC, Occam's razor suggests that there might be a relation. In this talk I discuss 3.5 frontiers, where neutino physics might be directly related to new physics to be discovered in the unknown realm of the Terascale:
- the Majorana frontier
- the Unification frontier
- the Flavor frontier
- the Exotics frontier
- Slides (pdf) - slides from Heinrich Päs' presentation
- Personal Profile - More information about Heinrich
Timber is one of the few truly renewable construction materials we have, but the fact it is made by trees to suit their own agenda presents a number of challenges. This talk will cover the biomechanics of wood from the macroscopic to the molecular scale, the ways we can influence wood properties through silviculture, and attempt to explain how structural engineers deal with imperfect knowledge of the materials they work with.
- Presentation Slides (ppt) - Powerpoint slides from the seminar
- FPRI Home page - Home page of the Forest Products Research Institute at Napier
The Standard Model of particle physics is remarkably successful, but requires a new particle, known as the Higgs boson, which has never been seen. Proposed in 1964 this is now generally assumed theoretically, and the hunt is one to find it.This search has been a defining feature of high-energy collider studies for twenty years, and is a major reason for the construction of the LHC at CERN. The data collected in 2011 have already told us a great deal about where the Higgs boson could be hiding. These results will be reviewed and prospects for completing the search outlined.
- Slides as PDF - Slides available from Bill Murray's website
- Bill Murray's home page - Find out more about Bill's work at CERN
The IOP Homi Bhabha Lecture - A key recent focus in condensed matter physics attempts to related disparate many-body phenomena such as the glass transition in viscous liquids, jamming transition in granular materials and pinning transition in disordered elastic media. In all cases the single particle mobility of the systems vanishes. A simple relative of these complex many-body dynamics is the problem of the sticking of a Brownian colloid to a planar substrate immersed in a fluid which loses its mobility upon sticking. Using modern techniques such as an optical tweezer, combined with micro-positioning ability of scanning probe microscopes, one can investigate the crossover between non-glassy and marginally/minimally glassy dynamics in condensed matter in this pseudo-two body problem.
- About the Institute for Physics - More information about the IOP who sponsor this series of lectures
I thought I was a good teacher until I discovered my students were just memorizing information rather than learning to understand the material. Who was to blame? The students? The material? I will explain how I came to the agonizing conclusion that the culprit was neither of these. It was my teaching that caused students to fail! I will show how I have adjusted my approach to teaching and how it has improved my students' performance significantly.
The evolutionary significance of sexual reproduction is a classic problem of evolutionary biology. This talk will explain how we can model evolution by applying our understanding of genetics to processes that operate in natural populations: mutation, selection, random sampling effects, and genetic recombination. It will use this understanding to show how the absence of sexual reproduction can undermine the effectiveness of natural selection as an evolutionary force. Theoretical models help to explain observations on the relation between the properties of genes and their location in regions of the genome where sexual reproduction is effectively absent.
Professor Emeritus Peter Higgs was 80 years old on Friday 29 May 2009. In celebration of Peter's 80th birthday the School of Physics and Astronomy has organised a General Interest Seminar to be given by Professor Nigel Glover of the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology at Durham on "The Hunt for the Higgs'.
"Naïve beliefs about the physical world" is the most thoroughly investigated subject in physics education research, leading to the following firm conclusions: (1) The beliefs of beginning students are generally incompatible with physics theory. (2) These beliefs are changed only slightly by a year of traditional physics instruction. (3) This conclusion is independent of the instructor and his mode of instruction, except that (4) better results can be achieved by instruction carefully designed to address the problem. The implications of these results for science education could hardly be more serious. However, there is a similar but more fundamental problem with broader educational implications: Teachers as well as students have naive beliefs about knowing and learning that interfere with the development of intellectual skills. This problem has not been addressed in most science curricula, teaching practices and educational policy.
Professor Bates' inaugural lecture, delivered at the University of Edinburgh's College of Science and Engineering. This is an updated version of the General Interest Seminar on 9th October 2008.
We do not know what gives mass to elementary particles. However, I will explain why after years of experimental and theoretical research we have extreme confidence that the Large Hadron Collider at CERN will tell us. The most famous and simplest idea to generate mass is a single Higgs boson. I will present the case for and against the single Higgs boson theory, and argue why revolutionary understanding and discoveries are likely under any eventuality.
There is a lot of talk these days about “Technology Transfer”, but in many cases with little understanding of how to achieve it. One of the more startling examples can be found in accelerator technology, where ideas about how to accelerate very rapidly the muons in a neutrino factory designed to study neutrino oscillations might find application in treating cancer with protons and light ions such as carbon. The talk will cover neutrino oscillations, the design of a novel accelerator, and its application to treating cancer.
Molecular clouds are cold, dark inhospitable places, which act as both the stellar nurseries and molecular cauldrons of our local galaxy. The key nano-factories of this molecular world are ice-covered silicate grains. Through experiments, parabolic flights, IR observations and theory we are starting to understand some of the chemical and physical processes governing the evolution of this molecular soup, and the key role dust grains and chemicals play in the star and planet formation process. Yet a huge bottle neck still exists in our understanding of the Physics and physical processes of planet building in the 1 mm ‒ 1 m particle-size regime. Using a unique instrument, designed specifically for the task, we have studied collisions of ices, dust aggregates and ice grains in zero-g conditions. Come along to find out how to lose weight in milliseconds—or at least how (not) to build planets from the building blocks available in interstellar space.
The Phoenix mission landed on the arctic plains of Mars in May and is still operating way beyond its primary mission of 100 sols. It has dug down to the ice buried just below the surface and analysed the dust and soil with a suite of instruments. Part of the payload is a microscope station able to take high resolution optical images of the Martian dust and soil, and which also includes an atomic force microscope that can study the details of individual grains of material with one hundred times the resolution of previous missions. This talk describes the Phoenix mission, the major results to emerge so far, and gives a more personal insight into the long journey from the first conception of an instrument to getting data back from another planet.
- Home page - Tom Pike's home page at Imperial College
Physics education in the UK, at both secondary and tertiary level, is facing a number of very serious current and future challenges. I will present an overview of what these are and what has brought us to this position. Rather than be able to offer any magic bullets (because there aren't any) I will argue that the best we can do is endeavour to better understand the causes of these complex problems. One such way to do this is to apply a slightly more scientific approach to teaching science. There are measurements that we can make, and data that we can capture and analyse. All too often, we don't do this, relying instead on ‘what worked for me’ or failing to recognise how different the landscape of the subject can look when viewed through a novice's eyes. I will present some examples of what can be done and also confront one or two ‘elephants in the room’, which may make slightly uncomfortable listening for some.
I will also highlight some education-based research and development projects that I have been involved with in Edinburgh over recent years, particularly those that have had a subtle and wonderfully subversive effect on the way people think about (and go about) their teaching activities, both within and outwith Physics.
- Slides - the slides from the seminar (PDF)
- Clicker analysis - the results of several live polls which were conducted during the seminar (PDF)
- Home page - Simon Bates' page with information about e-learning in physics
- General interest serminars - A full list of past and forthcoming seminars from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh.
In this talk I shall explain why it is important for crystallographers to cool their crystals for research purposes and some of the methods by which this has been done. I shall also explain how a simple idea invented in the laboratory led to the setting up of Oxford Cryosystems in order to manufacture and market the Cryostream cooling device for crystallography. This commercial enterprise began just at the time when the need for cooling crystals became essential, especially in the field of protein crystallography, and as a result Oxford Cryosystems had this niche market all to itself for many years. In the talk I shall describe the principle of the system and why it was an important and unique development.
What do the fundamental limits of physics say about sustainable energy? The British Isles, we often hear, have ‘huge’ renewable resources - but we need to know how this ‘huge’ source compares with another ‘huge’: our huge power consumption. The public discussion of energy policy needs numbers, not adjectives. Assuming no economic constraints, assuming we cover the country with windmills and the coast with wave-machines, every roof with solar panels and every field with energy crops, could Britain get enough power from renewables to continue with our current consumption?
- Prof. MacKay's slides - The slides used in this presentation (as images)
- Prof. MacKay's home page - Prof. David MacKay's home page at Cambridge - with links to many of his interests and activities.
- Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air - A popular (and free!) book with all the numbers in it
- Physics General Interest Seminar Home Page - A Link to the UoE Physics General Interest Seminar page detailing past and upcoming seminars.
Particle physics is about understanding the universe at the very smallest scales. So far, a remarkably consistent picture has emerged. Our experiments imply that everything in the universe consists of a small number of fundamental particles that are held together by a small number of fundamental forces. Our theory - the Standard Model - which describes these interactions, is so successful that we haven't yet made an experimental measurement that disagrees with a single one of its predictions. Yet, we know that the Standard Model is incomplete, and that there is much left for us to understand. This year sees the start of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a new particle accelerator that will allow us to probe the universe at the smallest scales to date. In this talk I will survey our current understanding of particle physics, describe the LHC, and discuss how it might help us solve some of the biggest mysteries about the universe.
- Tara Shears' PowerPoint Slides - A Powerpoint version of Tara Shears' slides used in this presentation
- Lab Reporter - 'Films to take you into the heart of science'
- LHC Website (UK) - The LHC (UK) website contains more information about what's happening at the LHC
- More about Tara Shears - Tara Shears and her involvement with labreporter.com
- CERN - This is the homepage of CERN, the European centre for particle physics and the home of the LHC. News, pictures, videos and general description pages on every aspect of the LHC machine and experiments can be found here.
- Physics General Interest Seminar Home Page - A Link to the UoE Physics General Interest Seminar page detailing past and upcoming seminars.
One insurance company has estimated that, using standard methods, it will take approximately 19,000 years to value its business - the answer is required by June. Clearly, standard methods will not suffice. To address this and related issues my team has adapted and implemented "smarter" methods developed by banks. One striking feature of my team is that it consists primarily of physics PhDs with no background in finance. Why is this? This talk will highlight some of the more interesting insurance modelling problems that are being solved using nonstandard methods developed by Tillinghast's smart modelling team, and consider why a physics background has proved such an effective training ground for solving these problems.
- Towers-Perrin website - A Link to the Towers-Perrin website containing further information
- An article relating to this seminar - This article provides further information and pointers on the subject of this seminar
- Physics General Interest Seminar Home Page - A Link to the UoE Physics General Interest Seminar page detailing past and upcoming seminars.
Refractive materials gives us some limited control of light: we can fashion lenses, and construct waveguides, but complete control of light is beyond simple refracting materials. Ideally we might wish to channel and direct light as we please just as we might divert the flow of a fluid. Manipulation of Maxwell's equation shows that we can achieve just that provided we have access to some highly unusual material properties. Metamaterials open the door to this new design paradigm for optics and provide the properties required to give complete control of light. One potential application would be to steer light around a hidden region, returning it to its original path on the far side. Not only would observers be unaware of the contents of the hidden region, they would not even be aware that something was hidden. The object would have no shadow.
- PDF of John Pendry's Slides - A pdf version of John Pendry's slides used in this presentation
- John Pendry's Group Website at Imperial - A Link to the Photonics site at Imperial College
'Biological Physics' can have different meanings in different contexts. It can be the use and investigation of biological systems to further advance our understanding of physical principles. Helmholtz, for example, discovered the principle of conservation of energy while studying muscle metabolism. It can also be the study of biology systems within a physical framework, or using physical methods and approaches. The use of X-ray techniques to determine the structure of DNA – which provided the first insight into the nature of the genetic code - is an obvious example. In this talk I will first provide a historical overview of the application of physics to biology, as well as the application of biology of physics. I will then present some of our recent studies of protein aggregation, touching on the role of aggregates in disease as well as their potential use as nanoscale self-assemblers.
I will outline briefly how cosmic rays were discovered and the work that led to the discovery of the extensive air-showers now used to study cosmic rays as energetic as 10^20 eV. I will explain why there is interest in these very rare particles and illustrate the detection techniques using the Pierre Auger Observatory, a 3000 km^2 instrument, as an example. The latest results on the mass, energy spectrum and anisotropy of the most energetic particles will be described. No knowledge about cosmic rays will be assumed.
- The Pierre Auger Cosmic Ray Observatory - The The Pierre Auger Cosmic Ray Observatory website describes the observatory and the study of ultra high energy cosmic rays
- COSMUS Animations - COSMUS have produced a number of downloadable/viewable animations showing ultra high energy cosmic rays and their detection
The cosmic microwave background (CMB) gives us a glimpse of the Universe as it was only a few hundred thousand years old. The tiny fluctuations - one part in 100,000 - that we observe in the CMB trace out the fluctuations that would eventually become the galaxies and clusters that we see today. Our theories, on the other hand, predict only the statistical properties of those initial conditions. Measuring cosmological parameters therefore requires disentangling those statistical properties from our finite, noisy observations. Today, those observations (from instruments like the COBE and WMAP satellites) tell us that the universe is geometrically flat, and consistent with the predictions of an early period of cosmological inflation. However, they do not yet tell us whether the Universe may be, say, opologically connected. Moreover, current data don't yet help us choose between the theories that underlie the observed phenomenology: why does this particular set of physical laws obtain? Can we hope that future data will help us physicists answer these questions?
- PDF of Andrew Jaffe's Slides - A pdf version of Andrew Jaffe's slides
- Personal Homepage - Andrew Jaffe's Personal Homepage showing research interest and links to papers
- 'Andrew Jaffe: Leaves on the line' blog - Andrew Jaffe's personal blog
External beam radiotherapy has benefitted significantly from developments in IT. Three-dimensional treatment planning, intensity-modulated and image-guided radiotherapy are among the techniques which have been introduced and will be described. The latter still employ an X-ray beam but experimental proton facilities have been established in several centres and show promising results for certain types of cancer. Some of the results will be reviewed and therecently-funded British consortium's plans described.
- PowerPoint Slides (zip) inc. video clips (53MB) - PowerPoint Slides (zip file includes ppt and videos - divx codec required for some videos)
- PowerPoint Slides (no video clips) (16MB) - PowerPoint Slides without associated video clips
- Dept of Clinical Physics, Glasgow University - Alex Elliott is Departmental Head of Clinical Physics at Glasgow University
From cosmology we learn that the Big Bang created matter and antimatter in equal amounts. However, we observe that the Universe is dominated by matter, there are about a billion protons for each anti-proton. This asymmetry is arguably one of the remaining puzzles of particle physics. For our Universe to exist there must be - amongst other conditions - an asymmetry in the rates of particles oscillating into anti-particles and vice versa. We will show how these oscillations have been studied with particles produced in accelerators (B-Mesons) and present recent measurements on particle-antiparticle asymmetries (CP-violation). We will discuss how these results fit within the accepted theories. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is one of the largest science projects ever built and will start its first run later this year. We will show how LHC will be able to shed light on more speculative theories of matter and antimatter particles.
- Franz Muheim's Personal Home page - Franz' personal home page
- Large Hadron Collider home page - Describes the LHC in more detail, has some photographs and describes some of the projects
The Antikythera Mechanism may well be the most extraordinary surviving artefact from the ancient Greek world. It dates from around the beginning of the 1st century B.C., contains some thirty gearwheels and is an order of magnitude more complicated than any surviving mechanism from the following millennium. There is no surviving precursor. It is covered in fragmentary astronomical inscriptions, and is undoubtedly an astronomical calculating device. Despite ingenious investigations since its discovery in a shipwreck in 1900, its exact purpose and functions have remained both controversial and unclear. I have been collaborating in a major joint UK/Greek/USA project which has carried out extensive new work over the past year. Our methods include 3-dimensional x-ray tomography and surface imaging of all surviving fragments. This is leading to the decipherment of many previously unknown inscriptions, and a fresh reconstruction of the Mechanism's structure. I will describe how we are at last coming to an understanding of what the Mechanism is for, the genius behind it and its profound importance in the history of astronomy and technology.
- The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project Website - The official The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project website
- Nature Article: In search of lost time (Nov 2006) - A recent article in Nature entitled 'In search of lost time'
Films, bubbles and drops have long been studied by physicists, chemists and mathematicians and appear widely in science. They have been sufficiently understood to be used as models of physical phenomena; for example for the liquid drop model of fission in nuclear physics and for the distribution of galaxies in the astrophysics. There are areas where there is much current research such as the collapse of bubbles that give rise to local very high temperatures - some people have even suggested this is a way of creating 'fusion' temperatures. Cavitation producing resistive motion to a ship's propellers and corrosion have been a constant source of study. They occur widely in food and drink. Could life exist without them? This lecture - demonstration will draw attention to some of the properties of soap films and bubbles that have been neglected by scientists.
- International Physics Olympiads - Cyril is on the advisory committee of the International Physics Olympiads
- The Science of Soap Films and Soap Bubbles (Book) - Cyril Isenbergs book: The Science of Soap Films and Soap Bubbles
Havok is the world leader in real time physics simulation and animation for the game and movie industries. This talk will outline the types of simulation currently performed and also focus on some future directions for real time physics effects in general. Simulation on the latest games consoles and multi-threaded PC platforms (including graphics processors) will also be discussed. It will be given at a general interest level, not delving too deep into particular simulation algorithms, instead giving a broad understanding of how physics is used in todays games and the challenges for the future. Note: Slide Presentation coming soon
- PowerPoint Presentation - A version of the PowerPoint presentation used (with embedded media links removed)
- Havok Home - The Havok Homepage for more information about Havok
- Video of Havok 4.0 features (YouTube) - A YouTube capture of a demonstration of Havok 4.0 Chris Keogh gave in 2006
Nanotechnology allows us to modify the properties of materials in a new way, creating functionality that is not possible in larger-scale versions of the same material. This is particularly the case for magnetic materials, where the very simple linear magnetic properties that might exist in the bulk can be tailored and made much more complex once structures approach 100nm in size or less. In this lecture I show how nanometre-scale magnetic materials can be used to build a new generation of microelectronic devices that use both the spin and the charge of the electron. Applications for such devices range from the battlefield through to MP3 players. I conclude the lecture by describing how this research unexpectedly ended up in the formation of a spin-out company which is now selling anti-counterfeiting solutions to brand owners around the world.
- PowerPoint Slides for Presentation - The PowerPoint Slides for Russell's presentation (28MB)
- PDF of Presentation - A PDF version of Russell's presentation (8.5MB)
- Russell Cowburn's Personal Homepage - Find out more about Professor Russell Cowburn and his work
- Ingenia Technology - Ingenia Technology: Find out more about some applications of nanotechnology
Dino Jaroszinski from the University of Strathclyde, Scotland presents "Harnessing plasma waves to accelerate particles and amplify light". This talk explored ways of harnessing plasma waves using intense laser beams to produce the most compact high energy accelerator in existence. This device can be used as a basis of an ultra-short pulsed x-ray or gamma-ray light source. Plasma waves may also be used to directly amplify light in an plasma-based analogue of the chirped pulse amplifier.
- TOPS Project Home Page - The homepage of the Strathclyde Terahertz to Optical Pulse Source (TOPS)
- Dino Jaroszynski's homepage - Find out more about Dino Jaroszynski
Janne Wallenius from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Sweeden presents "How Cold is Cold Fusion?"