Speaker Series FA2022

Sep. 8TH, PROF. Gabriele Carcassi


Title: Reverse Physics: Uncovering the Assumptions of Physics from its Laws 

Abstract: As part of our project, Assumptions of Physics, we developed a different approach to the foundations of physics called Reverse Physics. In Reverse Physics we want to start from laws or more specific results, and find the physical concepts and starting points that recover them. We want to understand what physical results are implied by which physical assumption. We will see how classical Hamiltonian mechanics can be characterized in seven different ways, we will find the root origin of the uncertainty principle and find a more conceptual characterization of the third law of thermodynamics. While these results span different branches of physics, the basic physical concepts used are the same, which demonstrates the advantage of studying the foundations of physics as a whole. These insights and techniques are critical to our overall project, which aims to identify a handful of physical starting points from which the laws of physics can be rigorously derived. 

Sep. 22ND, PROF. David Gerdes

Experimental Cosmology and Astrophysics

Title: Data Science and Discovery in the Outer Solar System     

Abstract: The Kuiper Belt -- the vast region of our solar system beyond Neptune -- is home to thousands of small, icy worlds that take hundreds of years to orbit the sun. It is a nearly pristine remnant of the disk from which the planets coalesced over 4 billion years ago, with a rich dynamical structure that encodes information about the solar system's early history. But studying trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) from Earth poses significant challenges. TNOs are extremely faint, move very slowly, and must be tracked for years to determine reliable orbits. In this talk I'll describe the DECam Ecliptic Exploration Project (DEEP), a survey program that has been awarded 47.5 nights on the 4-meter Blanco telescope in Chile to carry out a deep search for trans-Neptunian Objects in a set of fields distributed along the invariable plane. I'll describe the survey design and demonstrate how our advanced image processing pipeline efficiently discovers the faintest solar system objects ever detected from Earth. I will present preliminary results for the absolute magnitude distribution for >1000 cold classical Kuiper Belt objects detected in the first three years of survey data over an initial area of approximately 9 sq. deg. With this sample we also obtain an updated mass estimate for the cold classical Kuiper Belt. Finally, I'll describe how we are improving our methods further to search for objects that can potentially be observed by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft as it traverses the outer regions of the Kuiper Belt. UM Undergraduates have contributed significantly to my group's work over the years, and this talk will highlight some of their accomplishments. 

Oct. 6th, Prof. Alamantas Galvanasukas 

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Title: Lasers for Future Accelerators

NOV. 17th, Prof. Vanessa Sih

Optics and Condensed Matter

Title: Optical measurements of spin polarization in materials 

Abstract: In this talk, I will share my personal path to becoming a Physics professor at Michigan and what I have learned along the way. I will also describe the research that my group is currently conducting, which includes using optical pump-probe techniques to generate and measure electron and nuclear spin polarization in materials. These measurements have revealed some unexpected effects, which has led to a better understanding of what goes on inside materials. From a practical point of view, the understanding of how to control and measure charge and magnetism has enabled the information age, and this area of research may enable improved devices in the future. 

Professor Sih is the head of graduate admissions at Michigan and so she will also be answering questions about Graduate school applications. This is a great opportunity for seniors applying to graduate school this cycle!