Aspen Center for Physics

    2022 Heinz R Pagels

    FREE Physics Talks

    Wednesdays at Aspen Center for Physics

    5:30 to 6:30 PM Public Talks

  • June 29, 2022
    Gravitational Wave Observatories: Today and Tomorrow
    Speaker: David Shoemaker, MIT Kavli Institute 
  • The detection of gravitational waves requires exquisite sensitivity to the stretching and squeezing of space as they pass. The observatories which have given us almost 100 signals to date have required innovations in lasers, optics, mechanics, and the automation to make all the parts work together. 

    Plans are underway to extend these techniques to new frequency ranges and even better sensitivity, illuminating ever more exotic phenomena to be observed and understood. This talk will give a gentle introduction to how the instruments work and will create a roadmap for the observatories of the future.  
  • July 6, 2022
    Adaptive Matter: Living Systems, Maching Learning, and Robots
    Speaker: Vincenzo Vitelli, University of Chicago
  • Matter has traditionally been modelled using symmetries and conservation laws such as the fact that energy is conserved in a closed system. These tools are however not enough to fully grasp the dynamics of adaptive systems like groups of animals, multicellular organisms, or collections of robots. These adaptive systems constantly interact with their environment and develop their shape and properties to perform complex functionalities. In this talk, I will give a gentle introduction to recent theoretical concepts and approaches based on artificial intelligence that have emerged at the interface between matter, life and machines. Playful demonstrations with robotic matter will be combined with data driven illustrations of how machine learning can help study biological problems ranging from cellular force generation to embryogenesis.

  • July 13, 2022
    Quantum Matter out of Equilibrium
    Speaker: Vedika Khemani, Stanford University
  • Systems of billions of interacting quantum particles can display a fascinating array of emergent phenomena, and exist in "phases of matter" ranging from everyday magnets to exotic semiconductors and superconductors. The attendant technological advances have been equally astonishing; our information age is built on semiconductor-based transistors. These developments are especially remarkable given how hard the many-body problem is - indeed, no exact solution exists in general even for systems of just three particles, let alone billions. Instead, one relies on the framework of equilibrium statistical mechanics, which affords a great degree of conceptual simplification in describing the macroscopic properties of many-body systems.

    A confluence of developments across a range of subfields --- particularly experimental advances in building programmable quantum devices --- have opened up a vast new territory of studying many-body phenomena in completely novel and highly out-of-equilibrium regimes, which lie well outside the traditional framework of statistical mechanics.  I will describe some highlights of an active research program to advance many-body theory to the non-equilibrium domain. I will show that not only can non-equilibrium systems exhibit a sharp notion of phase structure, but that some of these phases are completely novel and unique to the out-of-equilibrium setting. For example, certain phases of matter that are forbidden in equilibrium, such as time crystals, have found new life in the out-of-equilibrium setting.  I will describe some of the many fascinating properties of the time-crystal phase, and its recent experimental realization on Google's quantum computer.

  • July 20, 2022
    Touring a Supermassive Black Hole
    Speaker: Daryl Haggard, McGill University
  • Itís been a fantastic decade for black hole studies, highlighted by the 2017 and 2020 Nobel Prizes in Physics. Multiple Galactic Center research groups, the Event Horizon Telescope, and LIGO/Virgo continue to bring rapid-fire new observations to sharpen our understanding of these exotic objects. I will discuss the amazing new Event Horizon Telescope image of the Galactic Center black hole, Sgr A*. Iíll describe itís unique variability and put it in the context of other time domain phenomena in the Galactic Center, traced out over more than 20 years of observations from coordinated multi-wavelength campaigns. I will compare these detailed studies of Sgr A* to equally impressive multi-wavelength observations of M87*. I will also briefly explore how we can continue to push the frontiers of black hole research with existing and next-generation observatories.

  • August 3, 2022
    The Strange New Universe of Quantum Materials
    Speaker: Piers Coleman, Rutgers University

  • August 10, 2022
    Speaker: Duncan Haldane, Princeton University
  • August 17, 2022
    Speaker: Sophie Renner, University of Glasgow

  • August 24, 2022
    Speaker: Stephen Shenker, Stanford University

  • August 24, 2022
    Speaker: Douglas Stanford, Stanford University

"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."