News & Events

Colloquium: Michel Janssen on The Einstein-Besso manuscript on the perihelion of Mercury

Abstract: Last week, a stack of about 50 sheets with scratchpad calculations by Einstein and his close friend Michele Besso sold at auction in Paris for a record 11.5 million dollars. I prepared this manuscript for publication in the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein in 1995 and wrote an essay about it for the auction catalog the first two times it changed hands (for $360K in 1996 and $500K in 2002). In this talk I'll cover the most important calculations in this manuscript and trace its journey from Zurich in 1913 to Paris in 2021. 
The link to a short radio interview about the sale of this manuscript on BBC radio. 

This colloquium will have a remote option via zoom: 

Colloquium: Jie Shan, Cornell University

Abstract:  When two van der Waals materials of slightly different orientations or lattice constants are overlaid, a moiré pattern emerges. The moiré pattern introduces a new length scale, many times the lattice constant of the original materials, for Bragg scattering of Bloch electrons in each layer.  This gives rise to moiré minibands and rich emergent quantum phenomena. In this talk, I will discuss recent experiments on angle-aligned semiconductor heterobilayers, which exhibit remarkable correlated insulating states [1,2,3]. I will also discuss the prospect of using moiré superlattices as a quantum simulator.  1. Y. Tang et al., Nature 579, 353-358 (2020).
2. Y. Xu et al., Nature 587, 214–218 (2020).
3. C. Jin et al., Nat. Mater. 20, 940-944 (2021). 

Women in Astronomy and Physics Lecture Series (WAPHLS): Cacey Bester, Swarthmore College

Abstract: Examples of granular materials exist in abundance, from rice and cereal to sand and rocks. These particulate systems seem simple; they consist of dry, rigid grains interacting by contact forces. However, granular materials present complexities that are not well-understood, such as disordered force networks that transmit forces among grains and flow behavior that can readily change between solid-like rigidity and fluid-like flow. Impact of a granular target by a solid projectile illustrates both of these aspects. In this talk I will discuss impact experiments in which we use high-speed video photography to probe the unique features of a granular medium.

Zoom and Viewing Party: The speaker will be on Zoom, but WIPA will have a viewing party in Tate 301-20 with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and stroopwafels. Zoom here:

Colloquium: Looking for new physics with neutrinos

Looking for new physics with neutrinos:  MicroBooNE first results and beyond

Abstract: Pioneering results from the MicroBooNE experiment shed new light on perplexing anomalies observed in short-distance neutrino physics. These new results from MicroBooNE answer some questions and raise others. MicroBooNE has launched us into a new era of liquid-argon-based new physics in the neutrino sector.


Colloquium: NASA's Juno Mission to Jupiter – Extended!

Abstract: Juno’s principal goal is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Underneath its dense cloud cover, Jupiter safeguards secrets to the fundamental processes and conditions that governed our solar system during its formation. As our primary example of a giant planet, Jupiter can also provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars. With its suite of science instruments, Juno is investigating the interior structure, mapping Jupiter's intense magnetic field, measuring the distribution of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere.  JUNO is also the first spacecraft to fly over Jupiter’s aurora and measuring both the energetic particles raining down on the planet and the bright “northern & southern lights” they excite. A huge bonus is the small public outreach camera that is taking fantastic images of Jupiter’s beautiful clouds. The images – some science, some art – are processed and shared by the public around the world. NASA’s JUNO mission was launched in August 2011 and has been in orbit over Jupiter’s poles since 4th July 2016. This spring the mission was extended until late 2025. In this talk I will present the main scientific results to date and what we might might expect to come in the extended mission.

About the speaker: Dr. Fran Bagenal is a research scientist and professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder and is co-investigator and team leader of the plasma investigations on NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Juno mission to Jupiter. Her main area of expertise is the study of charged particles trapped in planetary magnetic fields and the interaction of plasmas with the atmospheres of planetary objects, particularly in the outer solar system. She edited the monograph Jupiter: Planet, Satellites and Magnetosphere (Cambridge University Press, 2004). Born and raised in the UK, Dr. Bagenal received her bachelor degree in Physics and Geophysics from the University of Lancaster, England, and her doctorate degree in Earth and Planetary Sciences from MIT (Cambridge, Mass) in 1981.  She spent five years as a postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College, London, before returning to the United States for research and faculty positions in Boulder, Colorado. She has participated in several of NASA's planetary exploration missions, including Voyager 1 and 2, Galileo, Deep Space 1, New Horizons and Juno.

Public Lecture: New Science from Merging Neutron Stars

New Science from Merging Neutron Stars

From the generation of gold to the expansion rate of the Universe: With the detection of compact binary coalescences and their electromagnetic counterparts by gravitational-wave detectors, a new era of multi-messenger astronomy has begun. In this talk, Professor Coughlin will describe how GW170817, our first example in this new class, is being used to study a diverse variety of dense matter in the Universe and how fast the Universe is expanding. He will then discuss how we are using telescopes to look for more of them and developing models to test what we find. Professor Coughlin will close with future prospects for this new field.

Colloquium: Peter Armitage, Johns Hopkins University

The 1D Ising model is a classical model of great historical significance for both classical and quantum statistical mechanics. Developments in the understanding of the Ising model have fundamentally impacted our knowledge of thermodynamics, critical phenomena, magnetism, conformal quantum field theories, particle physics, and fractionalization in many-body systems. Despite the theoretical impact of the Ising model there have been very few good 1D realizations of it in actual real material systems. However, it has been pointed out recently, that the material CoNb2O6, has a number of features that may make it the most ideal realization we have of the Ising model in one dimension. In this talk I will discuss the surprisingly complex physics resulting in this simple model and review the history of “Ising’s model” from both a scientific and human perspective. In the modern context I will review recent experiments by my group and others on CoNb2O6. In particular I will show how low frequency light in the THz range gives unique insight into the tremendous zoo of phenomena arising in this simple model system.

C. M. Morris, R. Valdés Aguilar, A. Ghosh, S. M. Koohpayeh, J. Krizan, R. J. Cava, O. Tchernyshyov, T. M. McQueen, N. P. Armitage, "A hierarchy of bound states in the 1D ferromagnetic Ising chain CoNb2O6 investigated by high resolution time-domain terahertz spectroscopy", Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 137403 (2014).

Julia Steinberg, N. P. Armitage, Fabian H. L. Essler, and Subir Sachdev, "NMR relaxation in Ising spin chains", Phys. Rev. B 99, 035156 (2019).

C. M. Morris, Nisheeta Desai, J. Viirok, D. Hüvonen, U. Nagel, T. Rõõm, J. W. Krizan, R. J. Cava, T. M. McQueen, S. M. Koohpayeh, Ribhu K. Kaul, and N. P. Armitage, "Duality and domain wall dynamics in a twisted Kitaev chain", Nat. Phys. 17 832 (2021).

Women in Astronomy and Physics Lecture Series (WAPHLS): Anne Gothmann from St Olaf college

Abstract: Corals skeletons are biologically precipitated minerals, “biominerals”, which have complex growth patterns that are sensitive to climatic and environmental changes. As a result, examination of the material structure of coral skeletons can provide a window into how climate change is impacting corals living in the oceans today, and examination of fossil coral skeletal structure can provide insight into the environmental conditions far back in Earth’s history. My research is aimed at understanding how corals build their skeletons, how coral skeletal structure depends on environmental conditions in seawater, and how environmental signatures are encoded within the crystal structure of corals. Recently, undergraduate researchers in my lab have been using two Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)-based tools to explore the crystallographic structure of modern and fossil coral skeletons: SEM-Cathodoluminescence imaging and SEM-Electron Backscatter Diffractometry. In this talk, I will discuss the utility of Cathodoluminescence and Electron Backscatter Diffraction for studying crystal structure and composition. I will also present preliminary data from Cathodoluminescence work conducted by undergraduate researchers in my lab.

CSE Lunch/Networking Event on Interviewing and Job Search for Grad Students and Post Docs:

CSE will hold an event featuring Chrissy Francis, Career Counselor from the CSE Career Center. Chrissy will talk and answer questions about interviewing and job offer negotiation among other topics.

Colloquium: Driving the first steps of Life in non-equilibrium settings

Driving the first steps of Life in non-equilibrium settings

Abstract: How could life emerge on the early Earth? Our experiments investigate the first steps of molecular evolution through non-equilibrium experiments. Typically, we use millimeter-scale temperature gradients, including the effects of water-air interfaces, to mimic conditions in early Earth rock pores. In chambers that simulate heated rock pores, the first information containing molecules of life are shuttled back and forth by surface tension, evaporation, the rmophoresis, and gravity. These environments accumulate and select for length, drive strand separation for replication, and offer a continuous supply of fresh molecules while performing wet-dry cycles. Using sequencing, we see how sequence information emerges from randomness by performing very simple ligation reactions. The experiments illuminate the pitfalls to establishing open-ended evolution. In some cases, the studies are accelerated by using proteins, but we are approaching the realistic case of using only RNA. The effort is embedded in an interdisciplinary network to study autocatalytic networks prior to the on set of Darwinian evolution.

School News

Smiling man with short hair, glasses and a beard.

The Big Picture: Rudnick helps lead effort that reveals the stormy weather in galaxy clusters

Professor Emeritus Lawrence Rudnick of the School of Physics and Astronomy led the Technical Working Group of the MeerKAT Galaxy Cluster Legacy Survey (MGCLS).
smiling man with a blonde beard and hair

Furmanski part of collaboration that casts doubt on the so-called “sterile neutrino”

Assistant Professor Andrew Furmanski, a faculty member in the School, is a member of a collaboration known as MicroBooNE, 170-ton liquid-argon detector at Fermilab, whose results have possibly
smiling man with short dark hair

Wang finds unique properties by giving three layers of graphene a twist

Ke Wang, an Assistant Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy, led a recent experimental effort to study the electrical properties of a novel architecture of graphene--a single atomic layer
woman with glasses

Roberta Humphreys on Luminous Blue Variables

Professor Roberta Humphreys of the School of Physics and Astronomy recently gave a colloquium that served as a primer on “some of the most interesting stars I know: luminous blue variables (LBVs).
Angie Stehr

School Staff Member in the Great American Thinkoff

Angela Stehr was one of four finalists to answer the question “Is it Better to Win or Play by the Rules?” in the Great American Thinkoff, held annually in New York Mills, MN. Stehr is a Program
man wearing glasses on top of his head standing in front of trees in the fall

Pryke leads research effort that improves constraints on Physics of Big Bang

Professor Clem Pryke of the School of Physics and Astronomy has recently published a paper using data from the BICEP/Keck experiments at the South Pole to refine models of the early expansion of the
Martin Greven

Greven research finds stretching quantum materials could tune their efficiency

Professor Martin Greven, a Distinguished McKnight Professor in the University of Minnesota’s School of Physics and Astronomy and the Director of the Center for Quantum Materials, led research efforts
Young man with dark hair

Alaei named Astronaut Scholar

Sauviz Alaei, a Physics and Math major from Eagan, has been named a recipient of the Astronaut Scholarship. The Scholarship is awarded annually to outstanding sophomores and juniors who intend to
Small Satellites team

Local team selected by Air Force for space launch

A team from the University of Minnesota Small Satellite Laboratory was selected in a competition to be one of three teams to have their small instrument, a cubesat, launched into space.
woman with glasses

Humphreys named AAS Fellow

Professor Roberta Humphreys of the School of Physics and Astronomy has been named a 2021 Fellow of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

School of Physics and Astronomy Seminar Calendar