"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 Heinz R Pagels
    FREE Physics Talks

    Thursdays at Aspen Center for Physics

    5:30 to 6:30 PM Public Talks

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


  • June 8, 2017
    The Science of "The Man from the 9 Dimensions"
    Speaker: Hirosi Ooguri, California Institute of Technology

    "The Man from the 9 Dimensions" is a 3D dome theater movie on Superstring Theory, the leading candidate for the unified theory of forces and matters, including gravity. It debuted in Japan last year and has received numerous prizes and honors including the 2016 Best Educational Production Award of the International Planetarium Society. Hirosi Ooguri, the President of the Aspen Center for Physics and the Scientific Adviser to the movie, will explain the science behind the movie, which takes us from the microscopic world of elementary particles to the macroscopic world of the universe, and to its beginning - the Big Bang.
    Watch the lecture.

  • June 15, 2017
    Origami: Art and Science
    Speaker: L Mahadevan, Harvard University

    Oru (fold) + kami (paper), is easier said than done, as anyone who has tried to fold a paper into a dragon knows! As in many other instances, artists got there first, and scientists are slowly following behind. I will discuss what makes origami possible on scales ranging from the atomic to the tectonic, how it appears naturally in drying Jello, wings, leaves and even your gut, the mathematics and physics of how it might be understood as a self-organized pattern, and how it is becoming possible to use it as a new design paradigm in technology.
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  • June 22, 2017
    The All-American Total Solar Eclipse of August 2017
    Speaker: Alex Filippenko, UC Berkeley

    A total solar eclipse, when the Moon fully covers the bright disk of the Sun and reveals its breathtaking corona, is one of nature's most magnificent spectacles - truly an awe-inspiring experience that moves some people to tears. On August 21, 2017, for the first time in 38 years, the very narrow path of a total solar eclipse falls on the continental United States. Come learn about total solar eclipses and how to view this one!
    Watch the lecture.

  • June 29, 2017
    Let's Go Delve into a Black Hole
    Speaker: Feryal Ozel, University of Arizona

    The Event Horizon Telescope is an experiment that is being performed on a large and ever-increasing array of radio telescopes that span the Earth, from Hawaii to Chile and from the South Pole to Arizona. In April of this year, the EHT collaboration performed its first set of observations with this full array of telescopes in order to take the first ever picture of a black hole. Come hear about how the unprecedented spatial resolution and methods of this experiment will allow us to get up close and personal with the black hole at the center of our Galaxy, Sagittarius A*, and the black hole at the center of the nearby galaxy M87. The ultimate goal is to test Einstein's theory of General Relativity by looking for its most bizarre prediction: a shadow that is a direct evidence for the event horizon of a black hole!
    Watch the lecture.

  • July 13, 2017
    A Quantum Future of Computation
    Speaker: Matthias Troyer, Microsoft Research

    A century after the development of quantum mechanics, we have reached exciting times where we have not only come to terms with the weird laws governing our world, but started to build computational devices that make use of these quantum effects. Quantum random number generators and quantum communication systems are already commercially available. Work on quantum computers is accelerating, and computational capabilities beyond that of any imaginable classical computer seem just over the horizon. I will discuss the origin of the exceptional computational power of quantum computers and how they may be used to solve important scientific, economic and societal problems that are impossible for classical computers.
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  • July 20, 2017
    Healing the Sciences/Humanities Divide
    Speaker: Lincoln Carr, Colorado School of Mines

    The divide between the sciences and the humanities has been growing in recent American history, not only in the population as a whole, but also in academia. Such an approach to knowledge stands in strong contrast to the attitude of Western Enlightenment thinkers as well as their predecessors in Arab and Islamic civilizations, who approached the world around them with an attitude of curiosity and openness synthesizing many paradigms of thought. Such an attitude of internal and external discovery led to profound developments ranging from early experimental science in ibn Al-Haythm's optics; to Al-Ghazali's reconciliation of his own divide between philosophy and religion; to Ibn Rushd's courageous defense of philosophy and critical thought. In this talk, Professor Carr will explore the present situation in the US, and offer some lessons from our own successes and failures in education that may prove useful to the rapidly growing prominence of scientific research around the globe in developed and developing nations alike.
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  • August 10, 2017
    This Time will be Different: Time Crystals in Quantum Systems
    Speaker: Chetan Nayak, Microsoft Research

    Physicists recently succeeded in creating a new state of matter called a time crystal. Such a system "marches to its own beat" by developing oscillations in time that are analogous to the spatial periodicity associated with an ordinary crystal. The oscillations do not decay or drift out of phase, unlike many other oscillatory phenomena that occur in nature. I will explain the recently-formulated theory behind this remarkable phenomenon and the subsequent experiments that are consistent with it.
    Watch the lecture.

  • August 17, 2017
    The Secret Life of the Higgs Boson
    Speaker: Stefania Gori, University of Cincinnati

    In July 2012, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, announced the groundbreaking discovery of a new particle, the so called Higgs boson, with properties never seen before. Today, five years after the discovery, we still have many unanswered questions about the nature of the Higgs boson and the basic constituents of our universe: what is the origin of the Higgs boson mass? What is the nature of dark matter, that is five times more prevalent throughout the universe than ordinary matter? Is dark matter communicating with the Higgs boson? In this lecture, I will explore ways to answer to these mysteries and to unlock the hidden secrets of the Higgs boson. Watch the lecture.

  • August 24, 2017
    Hidden Messages in Johannes Kepler's Frontispiece
    Speaker: Stefano Gattei, California Institute of Technology

    Johannes Kepler completed the Tabulae Rudolphinae in their logarithmic form in 1624. It then took three years to gather the financial support, find a suitable publisher and, particularly, overcome the difficulties posed by Tycho's heirs, who claimed both a share in the profits as well as censorship rights. The tables represented the crowning achievement of Kepler's career as an astronomer. Because of their novelty and importance, he proposed that the tall folio volume should have an appropriate frontispiece. The talk describes the meaning of the very many components of the engraving and relates them to Kepler's published works; it traces the origin of Kepler's frontispiece to Tycho's observatory on the Isle of Hven, as well as suggests the possible pictorial source of the key element of the drawing; and it highlights how Kepler, by way of this frontispiece, found the way both to assert his own position in and contribution to the history of astronomy, as well as to place himself in the dispute over the Copernican hypothesis. Together with other engraved frontispieces or title pages of astronomical works published after Galileo's Sidereal Messenger (1610), up until two decades after Galileo's death, Kepler's frontispiece is a chief example of how images were not merely used to provide learned decorations for books, but actually complemented the written texts. In fact, they were employed to 'say' what was not possible, or forbidden, to openly state in print: as such, they were part and parcel of the books' overall argument, and should be given special attention because of their specific, and often purposely misleading, 'language'.
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  • September 7, 2017
    The Quantum Physics of Climate Change
    Speaker: Brad Marston, Brown University

    Quantum physics plays a crucial role in determining the climate of the Earth and of other planets. Richard Feynman's famous double slit experiment gives us the key to understanding climate and how it is changing. Brad Marston will use this physics to present a picture of what will happen to the Earth as the concentration of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide continue to increase in our atmosphere. Live simulations will illustrate the basic features of weather and climate. Brad will also discuss ways that research in the Aspen area is contributing to a better understanding of climate change.
    Watch the lecture.