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Oxford Physics Public Lectures

Author: Oxford University

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The Department of Physics public lecture series. An exciting series of lectures about the research at Oxford Physics take place throughout the academic year. Looking at topics diverse as the creation of the universe to the science of climate change.

Features episodes previously published as:
(1) 'Oxford Physics Alumni': "Informal interviews with physics alumni at events, lectures and other alumni related activities."
(2) 'Physics and Philosophy: Arguments, Experiments and a Few Things in Between': "A series which explores some of the links between physics and philosophy, two of the most fundamental ways with which we try to answer our questions about the world around us. A number of the most pertinent topics which bridge the disciplines are discussed - the nature of space and time, the unpredictable results of quantum mechanics and their surprising consequences and perhaps most fundamentally, the nature of the mind and how far science can go towards explaining and understanding it. Featuring interviews with Dr. Christopher Palmer, Prof. Frank Arntzenius, Prof. Vlatko Vedral, Dr. David Wallace and Prof. Roger Penrose."
94 Episodes
Professor Barry C Barish gives a talk on the quest for the detection of gravitational waves. The quest for gravitational waves, following their prediction by Einstein in 1916 to their detection 100 years later will be traced. The subsequent opening of exciting new science, from rigorous tests of general relativity to using gravitational waves to explore the universe will be discussed.Prof Barish is a Ronald and Maxine Linde Professor of Physics, Emeritus at CalTech University in the USA, and has received a Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”.
Bill Diamond, President & CEO The SETI Institute gives an an update on the search for life in the Universe. Hosted by Ian Shipsey, Head of Physics.
What is the Dark Matter which makes 85% of the matter in the Universe? We have been asking this question for many decades and used a variety of experimental approaches to address it, with detectors on Earth and in space. Yet, the nature of Dark Matter remains a mystery. An answer to this fundamental question will likely come from ongoing and future searches with accelerators, indirect and direct detection. Detection of a Dark Matter signal in an ultra-low background terrestrial detector will provide the most direct evidence of its existence and will represent a ground-breaking discovery in physics and cosmology. Among the variety of dark matter detectors, liquid xenon time projection chambers have shown to be the most sensitive, thanks to a combination of very large target mass, ultra-low background and excellent signal-to-noise discrimination. Experiments based on this technology have led the field for the past decade. I will focus on the XENON project and its prospects to continue to be at the forefront of dark matter direct detection in the coming decade. Professor Elena Aprile is Professor of Physics at Columbia University in New York City. After obtaining her undergraduate degree in Physics in Naples, Italy, she earned her PhD at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. She started her research on noble liquid imaging detectors under the mentorship of Professor Carlo Rubbia, first as a student at CERN and later as postdoc at Harvard University. At Columbia, she pioneered the development of a Compton telescope for gamma-ray astrophysics based on a liquid xenon time projection chamber. She later turned her attention to the dark matter question proposing the XENON project for its direct detection using liquid xenon as target and detector medium. She founded the XENON Dark Matter Collaboration in 2002 and has served as its scientific spokesperson ever since; her international team includes more than 170 scientists and students representing 24 nationalities and 22 institutions. Aprile has been principal investigator on more than 20 research grants worth nearly $30 million over the last three decades and holds a patent for a vacuum ultraviolet light source. She has served on numerous panels and committees, for NASA, NSF, DOE, Fermilab, CNRS, ERC, etc. She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society since 2000. In 2017, she received an honorary degree from the University of Stockholm. She is the recipient of the 2019 AAS Lancelot Berkeley Prize.
The 2019 Halley lecture n February 2016, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced the discovery of the merger of two black holes, each of which weighed around 30 times the mass of the Sun. Shortly thereafter, it was speculated that these black holes might make up the dark matter that has long been known to exist in galaxies (like our own Milky Way). I will review this possibility and explain why the hypothesis may or may not work.
Professor Jacqueline van Gorkom delivers the 18th Hintze Lecture. How do galaxies get their gas and how do they lose it? Theories of galaxy formation predict that the growth of galaxies is regulated by the infall of hydrogen gas. This gas is the fuel for star formation. When galaxies run out of gas star formation stops. Interestingly, observationally we know much more about the stars in galaxies and how the star formation rate has evolved over time than we know about the gas. The gas is hard to observe. Currently a renaissance is taking place in observational radio astronomy, new telescopes have been developed, which can image this gas, and even better ones are being constructed. I will show what we already have learned, discuss remaining puzzles and outline what the future might bring.
Professor Mark Newton describes some of the key events in the discovery and development of Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR). Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) or electron spin resonance (ESR) spectroscopy as it is also known is a method for studying systems with unpaired electrons. The basic concepts of EPR are analogous to those of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), but it is electron spins that are excited instead of the spins of atomic nuclei. EPR was first observed in Kazan State University by Soviet physicist Yevgeny Zavoisky in 1944 and was developed independently at the same time by Brebis Bleaney at the University of Oxford.In the 75 years that have followed EPR has found many applications in physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, geology and archaeology. In this talk I will endeavour to describe some of the key events in the discovery and development EPR but spend most of the time focusing on applications of the technique and its many derivatives. EPR is very much an evolving technique, with detection of single electron spins now routine in some systems, such that we can optimistically look for applications ranging from studies of single molecules, to enhanced sensitivity and spatial resolution in magnetic resonance imaging.This annual lecture commemorating Professor Brebis Bleaney (1915-2006) was endowed by Bleaney's pupil Professor Michael Baker (1930-2017).
The Quantum and the Cosmos

The Quantum and the Cosmos


The 17th Hintze Lecture, given by Professor Rocky Kolb, Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, The University of Chicago. In daily life we do not experience the quantum nature of the world on the scale of elementary particles, nor do we sense the expansion and evolution of the universe on cosmic scales. Humans, midway in size between quantum and cosmic scales, evolved to perceive nature not as it actually is, but merely as required to survive in our environment. How remarkable that we have developed an understanding of the quantum realm and the cosmic realm, and realized that the inner space of the quantum and the outer space of the cosmos are intimately connected. In this lecture I will highlight some of the remarkable connections between the quantum and the cosmos.
Dr James Green, current Chief Scientist of NASA gives a talk on the how life may be distributed on Earth and in the Solar System with consideration of the age of our sun. This talk was a joint lecture held by the The Department of Physics and the Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers.NASA's Gravity Assist podcast, hosted by Dr. James Green:
The 3rd Wetton lecture, 19th June 2018 delivered by Professor David W. Hogg, Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics, New York University In the last 20 years, the astronomical community has found thousands of planets around other stars, and we now know that many or even most stars in our Galaxy host planets. These planets have been found by making exceedingly precise measurements of stars.Some of the planets we find are extremely strange; most known planetary systems are very different from our own Solar System. Here we will look at how these measurements are made, and how planets are found in the data. The data analysis - the search for the planets in the mountains of data - involves cutting-edge ideas from data science and machine learning. These technologies are transforming our capabilities in astronomy.
The 16th Hintze lecture, 25th April 2018 delivered by Professor René Doyon, Director, Mont-Mégantic Observatory & Institute for Research on Exoplanets, University of Montreal, Canada It is now well established that planetary systems are very common in the Solar neighbourhood, in particular small rocky planets, similar to Earth, around low-mass stars. Thanks to new ground-and spaced-based infrared facilities soon to be deployed, it will be possible not only to find the closest habitable worlds but also to detect their atmosphere and obtain constraints on their composition. This will be a major stepping stone towards the detection of life outside the Solar system. This lecture will highlight recent exoplanet discoveries and present an overview of ongoing and future projects aiming for the detection and characterisation of nearby habitable worlds.The detection of a biosignature, the evidence for biological activity beyond the Solar System, may be just a few decades away.
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