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Fall 2012

10/06/2012 | The New Particle Discovery at LHC with the ATLAS Experiment -- Bing Zhou (U-M Physics)

After decades of searching, evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson was finally found at CERN. This is a tremendous step forward in Physics made possible through the efforts of the LHC experiments (ATLAS and CMS). Professor Zhou will present a brief history on the Higgs hunting in the past decades. She will report the experimental evidence of the new particle discovery and ongoing research related to the studies of the new particle with the ATLAS experiment.

10/13/2012 | The Physics Behind the Music -- James Liu (U-M Physics)

What is music, and what distinguishes music from noise? Physics tells us that musical tones are carried through the air by sound waves. We will examine the physics of sound waves and see how musical tones are produced by various instruments. We will see how the interplay between physics, mathematics and music enhances the beauty of all three subjects.

10/20/2012 | How Flexible Bodies Move and Interact in Fluids -- Silas Alben (U-M Mathematics)

Swimming fish use a wide range of body and fin motions to propel themselves through fluids. Professor Alben and collaborators study the motions of a generic type of fish body--a flexible sheet--in a fluid. They use computer simulations and laboratory experiments to understand the basic physics of these fluid-structure interactions. Professor Alben will discuss the attraction of flexible bodies to vortices, and how multiple flexible bodies can interact through their vortex wakes.

10/27/2012 | Solar Powering Your House or Saving the World One Electron at a Time -- Stephen Forrest (U-M Physics)

The major push in the United States and other countries around the world for the development of low cost solar energy to electrical energy conversion is based on the assumption that solar is the most abundant form of energy on Earth, and it represents our best hope for replacing fossil fuel energy sources in the near term. However, is this assumption realistic? Professor Forrest will discuss the challenge ahead in making solar energy a major source of electrical energy, and then will discuss how to achieve that goal through tailoring nanoscale materials to make potentially very low cost solar cells. Finally, he will discuss a practical implementation of solar power generation: his off-grid house in Vermont uses solar as one of its main sources of energy. How Professor Forrest managed to make a solar powered system and its benefits and faults will be described.

11/03/2012 | Volcanoes and Precious Metal Deposits: What is the Connection? -- Adam Simon (U-M Earth and Environmental Sciences)

Volcanoes are a manifestation of a large scale recycling program wherein nature transfers elements among Earth's atmosphere, oceans, crust and mantle. One recognized byproduct of this complex recycling program is the formation of ore deposits rich in metals such as gold, silver and copper. While volcanoes are relatively common, metal-rich ore deposits are not. Thus, while geologists have a relatively good understanding of the processes that cause volcanoes to erupt, we do not yet have a comprehensive model that describes why some volcanic systems yield metal deposits and other do not. In this lecture, Professor Simon will describe the general characteristics of volcano-related metal ore deposits and how our science team combines field and experimental research to shed light on nature's recipe for ore deposit formation.

11/10/2012 | The Sun as a Star -- Alicia Aarnio (U-M Astronomy)

Our closest star provides astronomers with a unique opportunity to observe, in high spatial and temporal resolution, the spectacular interaction of hot plasma and magnetic fields which occurs on a daily basis. While we cannot observe these same phenomena in such detail on distant stars, what we do see in solar-type stars at a variety of ages helps us to piece together the history of our Sun and unravel how our solar system came to be. In a mutually beneficial way, solar physics and astrophysics research complement each other well, studies of each serving to fill gaps in our understanding of the other. In this lecture, I will discuss our view of the Sun in time: today's Sun helps us interpret what we observe in stars, and young, solar-type stars give us a glimpse of the solar system in its youth, in the epoch of planet formation.

12/01/2012 | Gravitational Lensing: Nature's Largest Telescopes -- Keren Sharon (U-M Astronomy)

Gravitational lensing deflects light from distant sources when it travels close to massive objects, such as clusters of galaxies. Some of these clusters become very effective lenses, magnifying the images of the galaxies behind them, and allow us to see galaxies that otherwise would be too faint to observe even with the biggest telescopes on earth or in space. In this talk, Dr. Sharon will show some examples of spectacular gravitational lenses and explain how she and her colleagues use them to study the Universe when it was a fraction of its current age.

12/08/2012 | Cosmic Rhapsody: From the Echo of the Big Bang to the Orchestration of the Universe -- Heidi Wu (U-M Physics)