Physics and Astronomy Colloquium

semester, 2018

Thursday, January 18th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Harvey Brown, Philosophy of Physics, University of Oxford
Subject: Quantum Bayesianism (QBism): the way to understand the quantum world

The recent philosophy of Quantum Bayesianism, or QBism, represents an attempt to solve the traditional puzzles in the foundations of quantum theory by denying the objective reality of the quantum state. Einstein had hoped to remove the spectre of nonlocality in the theory by also assigning an epistemic status to the quantum state, but his version of this doctrine was recently proved to be inconsistent with the predictions of quantum mechanics. In this talk, I present plausibility arguments, old and new, for the reality of the quantum state, and expose what I think are weaknesses in QBism as a philosophy of science. (The talk is based on this paper:

Thursday, January 25th 2018
3:35 pm:
There will be no colloquium this week

Thursday, February 1st 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Mark Bell, University of Minnesota
Subject: Nuclear Weapons and International Politics Today

Nuclear weapons are back in the news. This talk provides an overview of the most important and pressing current issues relating to nuclear weapons and international politics, including ongoing US-North Korea tensions, US nuclear modernization and the US Nuclear Posture Review, the extent of presidential authority over nuclear weapons, the risk of nuclear proliferation by U.S. allies and adversaries, and the recent nuclear ban treaty. The talk places these current issues within a broader historical context and discusses the extent to which today's nuclear concerns represent continuity or change from previous eras.

Faculty Host: Robert Lysak

Thursday, February 8th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Cristian Batista, University of Tennessee
Subject: Skyrmions and Vortices in Magnetic Systems

The history of magnetism dates back to earlier than 600 b.c., but it is only in the twentieth
century that scientists have begun to understand it, and develop technologies based on this
understanding. The new experimental techniques that were developed over twentieth century
allowed physicists to discover new forms of magnetism that they called “antiferromagnets”.
Unlike ferromagnets, the magnetic moments of antiferromagnets point along different directions
in such a way that the magnetic unit cell has no net magnetic moment. Typical configurations of
antiferromagnets are spiral orderings arising from competing exchange interactions or from the
Ruderman–Kittel–Kasuya–Yosida (RKKY) interaction between magnetic moments embedded
in metallic environments.
The new century started with the observation of a new generation of antiferromagnets
comprising more exotic magnetic textures, such as skyrmion and vortex crystals [1-3]. These
textures were unveiled thanks to the enormous progress made in real and reciprocal space
visualization techniques. We will discuss a few attractive properties of these novel phases and
the simple principles that should guide the experimental search. For instance, we will see that an
external magnetic field can induce a skyrmion crystal phase in hexagonal lattices (lattices with
six equivalent orientations for the spiral ordering) with easy-axis anisotropy [4-10]. Moreover,
we will see that magnetic skyrmions behave as mesoscale particles, which can order in different
three-dimensional structures, such as face centered tetragonal and hexagonal closed packed
crystals [10].
[1] U. Rößler, A. Bogdanov, and C. Pfleiderer, Nature 442, 797 (2006).
[2] A. N. Bogdanov and D. A. Yablonskii, Sov. Phys. JETP 68, 101 (1989).
[3] A. Bogdanov and A. Hubert, Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials 138, 255 (1994).
[4] S. Hayami, S.-Z. Lin, and C. D. Batista, Phys. Rev. B 93, 184413 (2016).
[5] A. O. Leonov and M. Mostovoy, Nature Communications 6, 8275 (2015).
[6] Shi- Zeng Lin, Satoru Hayami and C. D. Batista, Phys. Rev. Lett. 116, 187202 (2016).
[7] C. D. Batista, S-Z. Lin, S. Hayami and Y. Kamiya, Reports on Progress in Physics, Volume 79, 8
[9] Satoru Hayami, Shi-Zeng Lin, Yoshitomo Kamiya, and Cristian D. Batista, Phys. Rev. B 94, 174420.
[10] Shi-Zeng Lin and C. D. Batista, arXiv:1707.05818v1.

Faculty Host: Natalia Perkins

Thursday, February 15th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Mark Saffman (University of Wisconsin)
Subject: Quantum computing with simple and complex atoms
Refreshments in atrium after the Colloquium.

Quantum computing is a few decades old and is currently an area where there is great excitement, and rapid developments. A handful of distinct approaches have shown the capability of on demand generation of entanglement and execution of basic quantum algorithms.

One of the daunting challenges in developing a fault tolerant quantum computer is the need for a very large number of qubits. Neutral atoms are one of the most promising approaches for meeting this challenge. I will give a snapshot of the current status of quantum computing in general and atomic quantum computing in particular. The atomic physics underlying our ability to control neutral atom qubits will be described, and I will show how one of the most complicated atoms in the periodic table may lead to some simple solutions to hard problems.

Faculty Host: Paul Crowell

Thursday, February 22nd 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Erez Berg (University of Chicago)
Subject: Critical Metals: Lessons from quantum Monte Carlo studies

Critical phenomena are one of the cornerstones of classical statistical mechanics. Quantum critical points (i.e., continuous phase transitions at zero temperature) in insulating materials are relatively well understood, by analogy with classical critical points in one spatial dimension higher. In contrast, the theory of quantum critical behavior in metals is still, to a large degree, open. Such metallic critical points are believed to play an important role in the physics of several "strongly correlated" materials, such as high temperature superconductors. Fortunately, many classes of metallic quantum critical points can be simulated efficiently using quantum Monte Carlo without the notorious "sign problem", which often hinders numerical simulations of fermionic systems. I will describe some recent progress along these lines, and how it sheds new light on some of the outstanding puzzles in the field.

Faculty Host: Rafael Fernandes

Thursday, March 1st 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Sara Seager, MIT
Subject: Exoplanets
Joint Colloquium with Earth Sciences (Nier Lecture)

Thursday, March 8th 2018
3:35 pm:
Tate Grand Opening

Thursday, March 15th 2018
3:35 pm:
Subject: There will be no colloquium this week due to Spring Break

Thursday, March 22nd 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Pablo Jarillo-Herrero (MIT)
Subject: TBD
Faculty Host: Vlad Pribiag

Thursday, March 29th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Barry Mauk, APL
Subject: New perspectives on Jupiter’s novel space environment and aurora from NASA’s Juno mission

B. H. Mauk, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, USA (

Jupiter’s uniquely powerful auroras are thought to be symptoms of Jupiter’s attempt to spin up its space environment and shed angular moment (albeit minuscule amounts). The processes involved connect together such disparate phenomena as the volcanoes of Jupiter’s moon Io and the Jupiter-unique synchrotron emissions imaged from ground radio telescopes at Earth. While the power sources for auroral processes at Earth and Jupiter are known to be very different, it has been expected that the processes that convert that power to auroral emissions would be very similar. NASA’s Juno mission, now in a polar orbit at Jupiter, is dramatically altering this view about how Jupiter’s space environment operates. Auroral processes are much more energetic than expected, generating beams of electrons with multiple MeV energies and with directional intensities that can be more intense than the electrons within Jupiter’s radiation belts. The most intense auroral emissions appear to be generated by processes that have no precedent within Earth auroral processes. And, the auroral generation processes are poorly correlated, unexpectedly, with any large-scale electric currents thought necessary to regulate the interactions between Jupiter’s spinning atmosphere and space environment. These and other findings are discussed, along with presentation of Juno’s broader mission and discoveries.

Faculty Host: Robert Lysak

Thursday, April 5th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Alessandra Corsi, Texas Tech
Subject: TBD
Faculty Host: Vuk Mandic

Thursday, April 12th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Doug Glenzinski, Fermilab
Subject: TBD
Faculty Host: Dan Cronin-Hennessy

Thursday, April 19th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Victoria Kaspi, McGill University.
Subject: TBD
Faculty Host: Andrey Chubukov

Thursday, April 26th 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: John Bush, MIT
Subject: TBD
Faculty Host: J. Woods Halley

Thursday, May 3rd 2018
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Jeffrey Bub, Maryland
Subject: TBD
Faculty Host: Michel Janssen

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