In the above photo, some of those who attended the Aspen Center for Physics' June 6, 2013 public lecture on The Physics of Cooking by David Weitz made ice cream after the lecture by tossing salt and ice and a bag of milk, cream and sugar until it solidified.

Nick and Maggie DeWolf Public Lectures

Winter 2015

Wednesdays - 5:30 pm

Wheeler Opera House

Before each lecture, plan to attend Physics Cafés, chats with physicists co-hosted with the Aspen Science Center, at 4:30 pm in the Wheeler Mezzanine

Lectures and Cafés are Free

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

  • January 7
    Nature's Smallest Rotary Engine: Why We Eat and Why We Breathe
    Kazuhiko Kinosita, Waseda University, Japan

    Each one of us is a heater of about 100 watts. We burn the food we ingest with the oxygen we inhale, though not in the literal sense, of course. We oxidize the food slowly to minimize heat production while synthesizing ATP (adenosine [ah den ah seen] tri-phosphate). We expend our body weight of ATP each day but you wouldn’t want to eat that much ATP which is not tasty! More than a billion times a billion of Nature’s Smallest Rotary Engines continuously rotate in our bodies, from head to foot, splitting and then re-synthesizing ATP. We eat and breathe to keep these rotary engines running!
    Watch the lecture.
  • January 14
    How Plants and Animals Survive Crashing Ocean Waves
    Mark Denny, Stanford University

    As ocean waves crash on rocky shores and coral reefs, they are accompanied by water velocities as high as 30 miles per second, among the highest in nature. One might suppose that the hydrodynamic forces imposed by these flows -- equivalent to those associated with supersonic flows in air -- would prohibit plants and animals from living in these extreme environments, but just the opposite is true. Next to tropical rain forests, life in wave-exposed habitats is the most diverse on the planet. Professor Denny will use limpets, acorn barnacles, seaweeds and other examples to highlight aspects of fluid dynamics seldom encountered in other habitats.
    Watch the preview.
    Watch the lecture.
  • January 21
    The Monster at the Heart of the Milky Way
    Andrea Ghez, University of California, Los Angeles

    Through the capture and analysis of two decades of high-resolution imaging, Dr. Ghez and her team have moved the case for a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy from a possibility to a certainty. Dr. Ghez’ work also explores the role that black holes play in the formation and evolution of galaxies. Several unexpected surprises have been revealed including the presence of massive young stars orbiting in close proximity of a black hole and a possible gas cloud headed straight for the black hole in our galaxy. The origin of these stars and putative gas cloud are a challenge to explain, but may provide key insight into the growth of the central black hole.
    Watch the preview.
  • January 28
  • Fundamental Physics in the 21st Century
    Nima Arkani–Hamed, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton

    Fundamental physics started the 20th century with the twin revolutions of relativity and quantum mechanics, and much of the second half of the century was devoted to the construction of a theoretical structure unifying these radical ideas. Yet storm clouds are gathering, which point towards a new set of revolutions on the horizon in the 21st century. Space–time is doomed––how can it emerge from more primitive building blocks? And how is our macroscopic universe compatible with violent microscopic quantum fluctuations that seem to make its existence wildly implausible? In this talk Arkani–Hamed will describe these deep theoretical mysteries, as well as the beginning of plans for a giant new particle accelerator, with energy seven times higher than the Large Hadron Collider, that will be necessary to make major progress on at least some of these questions in the coming decades.
  • February 4
    Vitrimers, a New Class of Materials
    Ludwik Leibler, ESPCI Paris

    Glass–workers shape marvelous objects without using moulds or precise temperature control because glass is a unique material that transforms from liquid to solid in a very progressive way. Can we imagine other compounds that offer similar opportunities? I will present the concept of solidification by molecular–networks topology freezing and introduce vitrimers, organic materials that behave just like glass. Discovery of vitrimers could profoundly affect many industries that rely on plastics, rubbers and composites.
  • February 18
    Quantum Matter, Spacetime, and Emergence
    Shamit Kachru, Stanford University

  • March 11
    Taking the Universe's Baby Picture
    David Spergel, Princeton University

  • March 25
    Quantum Complexity, Quantum Computing and Quantum Cognition
    Matthew Fisher, University of California Santa Barbara