"I found the general atmosphere [at the Aspen Center for Physics] very stimulating. All practical matters were taken care of in a pragmatic and effective way, all time was available for discussions and self-study. The beautiful surroundings did not distract, but stimulated creative thinking. It is too bad that life cannot always be so simple and pleasant."

    Aspen Center for Physics

    2017 Maggie & Nick DeWolf
    FREE Physics Lectures for Everyone

    Wednesdays at the Wheeler Opera House*

    4:30 to 5:20 PM Physics Café co-hosted with Aspen Science Center

    5:30 to 6:30 PM Public Lecture

    View a 13-minute Video about the Aspen Center for Physics

  • January 4, 2017
    The Mathematics of Paper
    There is some profound mathematics behind our everyday trouble with wrapping oddly-shaped gifts and making maps. The solution? A cousin of origami called kirigami, which allows us to solve these problems and much, much more.
    Speaker: Randall Kamien, University of Pennsylvania
    Watch the lecture.

  • January 11, 2017
    Molecular Computers at the Center of Living Cells
    In humans and all other living organisms, genetic information coded into DNA provides the instructions each cell uses to make thousands of different RNAs and proteins. The proteins and RNAs are produced by molecular machines only a few billionths of a meter in size that read and follow the DNA blueprint. How these tiny machines work remains somewhat mysterious but Dr. Gelles' lecture will describe recent progress in unraveling the mystery. He will share live video of individual molecular machines in action, videos made possible by the development of advanced microscopes that enable researchers to directly examine genetic information processing.
    Speaker: Jeff Gelles, Brandeis University
    Watch the lecture.

  • January 18, 2017
    Atomic Legos: Building and Investigating Quantum Matter One Atom at a Time
    Ultracold atoms offer a fascinating view of the quantum world. With the quantum gas microscope, invented in the Greiner Lab at Harvard, physicists can now take pictures of individual atoms dancing to the rules of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics allows a single atom to exist in many locations at once. This so-called "quantum superposition" can be directly observed with the gas microscope. By looking at just one or two atoms, the researchers can gain intuition about this bizarre quantum world and use ultracold atoms as building blocks to assemble synthetic quantum materials and to explore new states of matter that have never been seen before.
    Speaker: Markus Grenier, Harvard University
    Watch the lecture.

  • February 8, 2017
    Humanity's New Gravitational Sense
    In 1916, Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves: vibrations of spacetime that travel throughout the universe at the speed of light. These vibrations are produced by the most cataclysmic events in the universe; exploding stars, the mergers of black holes, and the big bang itself. The waves travel unimpeded throughout the universe and offer a unique picture of these wonderful astrophysical laboratories. For several decades, it was imagined that these waves either did not exist or were too weak to ever detect. For the last 45 years, teams of scientists have been developing a series of ever more sensitive detectors to be able measure these spacetime distortions from as far away as hundreds of millions of light years. A pair of 4 km long laser interferometers has now opened this new window on the universe. Professor Adhikari will describe how our understanding of the quantum physics of the very, very small has allowed us to explore gravitational physics of the very, very large.
    Speaker: Rana Adhikari, California Institute of Technology
    Watch the lecture.

  • February 15, 2017
    Fast Radio Bursts – Nature’s Latest Cosmic Mystery
    Fast Radio Bursts are millisecond-duration pulses of unknown origin that were discovered by astronomers in 2007. A decade later, with only two dozen bursts known, Fast Radio Bursts remain enigmatic sources which parallel the early days of gamma-ray burst astronomy in the 1970s. Professor Lorimer will tell the story of Fast Radio Bursts’ discovery, summarize what we know so far, describe the science opportunities these bursts present, and make predictions for what we will learn in the next decade.
    Speaker: Duncan Lorimer, West Virginia University
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  • March 8, 2017
    The Unification of Forces through Geometry
    Matter is organized and held together by four forces: electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear forces, and gravity. Each is built around a peculiar inner symmetry that fundamental particles seem to have. Depending on the type of symmetry and on the number of matter particles, at smaller distances such forces can get stronger or weaker, or even display scale invariance (just like in fractals). Extrapolating our current data to very small scales suggests the presence of a larger symmetry, which would underlie a single force unifying electromagnetism and the nuclear forces. Gravity behaves differently; unifying it with the other three seems to require the emergence of new physics at even smaller scales. One possibility is string theory, which predicts additional space dimensions whose shape would explain the forces and matter particles we observe, thus giving an elegant geometrical origin to the fundamental properties of the Universe's building blocks.
    Speaker: Alessandro Tomasiello, U of Milano-Bicocca
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  • March 22, 2017
    Confronting the Invisible Universe
    Dark matter is an enigma. Even though it can be "seen" through its influence on gravity, dark matter is invisible to the other known forces of nature. There are numerous ongoing efforts to discover the origin and properties of dark matter, ranging from laboratory experiments to astrophysical investigations. This intense interest is driven in part by tantalizing hints that the nature of dark matter might be linked to other deep and unsolved mysteries in physics. In this talk, Prof. Thaler presents the overwhelming evidence for dark matter as well as speculates on the broader implications of the invisible universe. Speaker: Jesse Thaler, MIT
    Watch the lecture.

  • March 29, 2017
    The Search for Exoplanets
    Did you know that it wasn't until the 1990s that scientists could be sure there were planets beyond our solar system? Since then, astronomers have discovered thousands of these planets – known as "exoplanets" – circling distant stars. Prof. Winn will explain the new technologies and techniques that were required, and what kind of planets have been found. Recent advances have revealed bizarre new worlds unlike anything in our Solar System, while also bringing us right to the threshold of finding other planets similar to Earth.
    Speaker: Joshua N. Winn, Princeton University
    Watch the lecture.