Saturday Physics Series


The Saturday Physics Series consists of five to six scheduled talks. At each talk, adults and high school students meet a University of Colorado professor and learn about his/her research. Talks usually last about one hour. Material is presented at the level of high school juniors and seniors. The series is free, open to the public, and no reservations are required. Simply show up and enjoy the show!

For more information—or to request a 2013 - 2014 poster—please contact Veronica Lingo.

This project received funding from the CU Outreach Committee.

2013 - 2014 Season

All Lectures are held at 2 p.m. in Duane Physics Room G1B30.




Nov 9

“The Higgs Discovery and More at the LHC”

Professor Kevin Stenson
High Energy Physics

Jan 18

“Revealing the Births of Stars and Galaxies with Infrared Astronomy”

Abstract: Did you ever wonder where stars like our Sun and galaxies like our Milky Way came from or how astronomers can figure out these things? Stars form deeply embedded in clouds of interstellar gas -- a process which is invisible to us because of shielding by interstellar dust. However, infrared light can pass right through interstellar clouds, enabling astronomers to identify star formation in galaxies. Professor Glenn will demonstrate the detection of infrared light and show how astronomers are using infrared observations to unravel mysteries of galaxy formation. He will discuss recent results from the Herschel Space Observatory and plans to build an exciting, large new telescope, CCAT, atop a mountain at an elevation of 18,400 feet in the Atacama Desert in Chile.

Professor Jason Glenn
Astrophysics and Planetary Sciences
Feb 22

“Building with Crystals of Light: From Clocks to Computers”

Abstract: The interactions between electrons in solids or liquids are of great interest to scientists. Understanding these interactions is necessary for understanding the fundamental physical laws governing our Universe and to advance our technology. However , the complexity of these interactions generally prevents us from coming up with an exact mathematical description of their behavior. Fortunately, precisely engineered ultracold gases are emerging as a powerful tool for unraveling these challenging physical problems. When atoms or molecules are cooled down to ultra-low temperatures, they can be trapped in artificial crystals of light. Those are arrays consisting of hundreds of thousands of microtraps, created by standing waves of laser light. Atoms in a crystal of light look like eggs in an egg carton and behave like electrons in a solid crystal. The big advantage of the atomic systems is that they are free of defects or disorder and fully tunable.

In my talk, I will present a new research direction for studying the complex quantum interactions that electrons experience in solids using instead atoms and molecules in crystals of light. I will also explain how atoms inside crystals of light can be used to create atomic clocks. I will describe how we use the ultrahigh resolution and ultraprecise atomic clock at JILA to observe entanglement. Entanglement is one of the spooky properties of quantum mechanics in which two particles interact and retain a connection, even when they are far apart. Entanglement is required to build a quantum computer, a computer operated with quantum mechanical elements. These new investigations are opening the door to using an atomic clock for precision measurements, as a powerful quantum simulator, and as a quantum computer in the not-too-distant future.

Professor Ana Maria Rey
Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics
Mar 15

“Knots and Physics”

Since Lord Kelvin’s early models of atoms, the idea of tying a physical field into a knot has long fascinated scientists, but is a much more subtle affair than tying one’s shoelaces. The entire space-filling field, such as electric or magnetic field, has to conform to the knot. Following nearly two centuries of speculation on how knotted physical fields might behave, technological advances are finally enabling the pursuit of knotted structures in the laboratory. This lecture will discuss realization of knots in molecular alignment fields of liquid crystals, unusual materials that everybody knows for their use in information displays. Maybe surprisingly, but knotted fields in liquid crystals could lead to technological advances enabling fabrication of artificial composite materials with entirely new unusual properties and many practical applications in consumer devices. Although scientific challenges ahead are likely to be knotty, the prospects of realizing such materials with knotted structures and unusual properties are enticing indeed.

Professor Ivan Smalyukh
Condensed Matter Physics
Apr 5


"The Definitions of Time and Frequency: From Astronomy to Atomic Clocks"

Abstract: Since antiquity, time has always been closely connected to the observations of astronomical events such as the lengths of the day, lunar month, and solar year. I will discuss how time and frequency are currently defined and how these definitions have evolved from antiquity to the present. The present definitions of time and frequency are based on a combination of data from atomic clocks and astronomical observations, and I will describe how the differences between these two data sets are reconciled and how the definitions might be modified in the future.

Professor Judah Levine
Precision Clocks and Frequency Standards
Apr 26

“Quantum Matter”

We live in a quantum mechanical world. All matter is built from particles that obey quantum mechanical laws, ranging from quarks and nucleons, to electrons, to atoms and molecules. These building blocks of matter are tiny, and it is often said that quantum mechanics is only important for very small objects. But this is only partly true, as many macroscopic forms of matter are intrinsically quantum, ranging from metals to neutron stars and beyond. This talk will explore the fascinating world of quantum matter.

Professor Michael Hermele
Condensed Matter Physics