Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The November Coffee Talk Colloquium will be held this Thursday, November 27, 2008 at 7:00 PM in Herzberg 2445. Dr. Heather Logan will be presenting on the Mystery of Mass. Abstract below
Even after decades of glorious experiments in particle physics, we still don't know why particles have mass. Our best guess is the Higgs mechanism - the single part of the standard model yet to be experimentally tested. I'll try to explain the problem with mass in the Standard Model and the Higgs solution, using ideas from undergraduate electromagnetism and classical mechanics. I'll also describe how we hope to test the Higgs mechanism uning data from the experiments starting now at the Larfe Hadron Collider.
Coffee and snacks will be available, so bring a mug!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Herzberg Lecture - Tuesday!

When: Tuesday, November 4th, 7:30pm
Where: 2000 Bell Theatre, Minto Centre, Carleton

The Large Hadron Collider: Shedding light on the Dark Universe

Rolf-Dieter Heuer has been designated as the next Director General of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

He has contributed to the study of electron positron interactions, the development of experimental techniques, and the construction of large detector systems.

Despite great success, many key questions in particle physics and cosmology are unanswered. In particular, some 95% of the Universe consists of unknown dark matter and dark energy. Particle physics is about to enter the Terascale, providing a deeper understanding of the Universe and possibly dramatically changing our view of the world. With the start-up of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN this year, we expect revolutionary results explaining the origin of matter, unraveling the nature of dark matter and providing glimpses of extra spatial dimensions or grand unification of forces and hints on dark energy.

Professor Heuer is instrumental in shaping the European and international program in energy frontier physics. In this lecture, he will take a look into the future of particle physics.

This lecture is sponsored by the Faculty of Science and is free and open to the public.


Be sure to join the facebook event and tell all your friends!

Monday, October 27, 2008

October Coffee Talk

This Wednesday, October 29th, Dr. Oakham will be leading the October edition of the Physics Society Coffee Talk. Abstract below.
On the 10th of September, 2008 the largest particle physics experiment was started at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland. The Large Hadron Collider or LHC will bring protons together at a combined energy of 14 TeV in the centre of experiments such as ATLAS. The talk will describe the LHC machine, the ATLAS experiment and the discovery potential of this huge scientific undertaking.
Coffee and other refreshments will be served so bring a mug! See you there!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

LHC in action

Click the following link to see live webcams of the LHC experiement!



Tuesday, September 9, 2008

ATLAS/LHC talk tomorrow

September 10th, from 10:00 am to 11:00 am Prof. Oakham will be giving a talk in room 1154 HP on the topic of ATLAS and the LHC which turns on tomorrow. This talk is open to everyone.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Physics Society September Newsletter

Click the image for an e-copy of the Physics Society September Newsletter.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The (Multi) Universe(s)

Crossposted from Radiolab.org

Have you wondered if there is another you out there? Somewhere? Sitting in the same chair, reading the same blog post, wearing the same clothes and thinking the same thoughts? Well, Brian Greene says there must be one. Or two. Or lots and lots and lots and lots and… Why? You ask, well listen to Greene’s argument in this week’s podcast.

We are still furiously working on Season 5, so while you wait we bring you today’s podcast of a conversation between Robert Krulwich and Brian Greene, physics and mathematics professor and director of the Institute of Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics at Columbia University. The interview is part of a series called “Giants of Science” hosted by venerable New York institution, the 92nd St Y.

Robert and Brian discuss what’s beyond the horizon of our universe, what you might wear in infinite universes with finite pairs of designer shoes, and why the Universe and swiss cheese have more in common than you think.

Take a listen here

You can see a video of Brian talking about string theory here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

2008 CUPC at U of T

The following is a message from Sarah Kavassakis, the CUPC chair:

Dear Fellow Undergraduate Physics Students,

It is that time of year again, it is time for the Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference! This year, the University of Toronto will be hosting the 44th CUPC, from October 16th – 20th, 2008. For those of you who aren't familar with the conference, it consists of four days of academic talks and lab tours relating to all areas of physics. Each student will be given a chance to present, with either a 15 minute talk or poster presentation, in either French or English, research that they themselves have conducted, as well as to listen to the work done by their peers. Typically, topics of undergraduate research are broadly grouped under astronomy and astrophysics, experimental physics, mathematical physics, computational physics, chemical physics and physical chemistry, planetary physics, biophysics, and engineering physics. Along with the opportunity to present their own work, attendees are also able to enjoy a series of key note lectures presented by well respected and established physicists who are at the top of their field. In the past, key note speakers at the CUPC have included John A. Wheeler, Richard P. Feynman, Freeman Dyson, and other incredible minds. 2008 will be no exception, our invited speakers for English talks so far include popular icons Lawrence Krauss and Lee Smolin and Nobel laureate John Polanyi. We are also currently preparing our list of French language speakers.

Keeping up with past years, and due to Toronto's ideal location for travel, the 44th CUPC is expecting 250-300 delegates from Canada and North America and a few dozen international students. The full registration fee is $300, which includes hotel accomodation for the four days of events and a ticket to the final Awards Banquet. For students not needing accomodation, the registration fee is $150. More information about fees and to register, go online to our website: http://cupc.ca . The conference hotel this year is the Courtyard, which is downtown Toronto, and minutes from the University of Toronto's St. George Campus, where our Department of Physics is located.

Our website also contains information about the various labs and external research groups that you will have an opportunity to visit as well as the "social events calender" for the conference. In the standard vein of the physics conference, the 2008 CUPC will feature a downtown Toronto pubcrawl (and alternatively, for those who aren't interested, a "dessert crawl"), opportunities for sightseeing, and a number of "meet and greets" to let you get to know your fellow students and fellow physicists. We will also be featuring an awards banquet on the final night where awards will be given out to the top three contributed student talks and the top three student poster presentations (as judged by a panel of grad students, pdfs, and faculty).

All students are welcome. Typically the conference is attended by 2nd, 3rd and 4th year undergraduates along with recent graduates (new grad students). Attendees can present any work that they conducted as an undergraduate (that is somehow connected to physics), from either a summer job, NSERC, a reading course, a lab or project course, undergraduate thesis, etc. Consult the website if you need more information about the types of presentations that are typically given, or feel free to email me (sarah.kavassalis@utoronto.ca), the 2008 host and organizing chair, with your questions.

Arrival of students happens all day on the Thursday (October 16th), with most students arriving in the late afternoon for the reception in the evening at the hotel. Friday (17th), Saturday (18th), and Sunday(19th) are full conference days, with the Awards Banquet taking place Sunday evening. Monday (October 20th) is a final breakfast at the hotel. Please make your travel arrangements with all of this in mind. Many students arrive late on Thursday and leave Sunday night (meaning only one missed day of class). Look at the "Coarse Schedule" (which is subject to minor changes) on our website for more information on timing.

I look forward to meeting you all in October.

Sarah Kavassalis
2008 Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference Chair
University of Toronto
President - Physics and Astronomy Student Union
e-mail: sarah.kavassalis.utoronto.ca
Visit http://cupc.ca for online registration.

September Movie Night

I'm happy to announce that we have a date, time, location, AND movie picked out for our first official Physics Society Movie Night. Here's what you need to know:

What: Phys Soc Movie Night - The Matrix or A Beautiful Mind
Where: Ravens' Roost
When: September 18th, 7pm (Note that this is special date, normally the movie nights will be held on the second Thursday of the month.)

This event is open to anyone so whether or not you are a member come on down and meet everyone!


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Tell Me A Story

Radiolab's Robert Krulwich gave the commencement speech at California Institute of Technology. It's on the importance of scientific storytelling. More specifically, the importance of talking about and teaching science at a level all people can understand. I think it's a truly fantastic speech, have a listen.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

August Update

The 2008/2009 academic year is fast approaching and the Physics Society has many exciting things planned. I'd like to first announce this year's executive:

Renée Yoxon: Co-President
Hass AbouZeid: Co-President
Leah Pearson: Vice-President
Nicholi Shiell: Secretary
Alan Manning: Treasurer

What a fantastic bunch! Now, on to the events.

Academic Orientation Day: Look out for the Phys Soc booth at this year's Prelude to renew your membership and take a spin on our top secret demo.

First Year Help: Starting September 1oth we will be hosting a weekly help session aimed at first years to help them get adjusted or to answer any questions. It will be from 1:00pm - 2:30pm in HP 2445 every Wednesday. We are currently looking for upper year volunteers for this project. If you are interested please e-mail us so we can begin to make the schedule. Thanks!

Movie Nights: This social event will occur at 7pm on the second Tuesday of every month, starting September 11th. If you have a suggestion for a movie or tv show send it our way. Location TBD.

Coffee Talks: Last year's open forum discussion was a big hit and we intend to keep it up this year. The talks will take place at 7pm in HP 2445 on the last Thursday of every month, starting September 25th.

Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference: This year's CUPC is at the University of Toronto from October 16th to the 20th. If you are interested in attending or presenting please contact us as soon as possible. More information on the CUPC can be found here.

Looking forward to seeing you all in September,


Friday, February 29, 2008

Coffee Talk: Extra Dimensions!

Tonight's first ever Phys Soc Coffee Talk featuring Bruce Campbell went swimmingly and was received well by all! I think it's safe to say that this will become a regular occurrence. Keep posted for the next chance to meet a faculty member, other physics-enthusiasts, and learn about something you won't learn in lectures.

Here are some pictures from tonight (courtesy of Sam Dejong, applied phys).

This first one is of some of the students who attended the talk. From left to right there is Hass AbouZeid (applied phys), Alex Weekes (math), Mauricio Buschinelli (aerospace eng), and Renée Yoxon (that's me, experimental phys).

This is Dr. Bruce Campbell at the beginning of the talk giving the motivation for studying extra dimensions.

If you have any questions about the coffee talk or would like to e-mail us some feedback please contact us at the info on the right. Thanks to Dr. Bruce Campbell for taking the time to give us this great talk and thanks to everyone who came out to enjoy it.

See you all tomorrow at the CAP lecture and the squash tournament!

Monday, February 25, 2008

February/March Update

Hi everyone,

Now that reading week is over the physics society has many events underway. Here is an exhaustive list of planned events for the rest of February and into March.

Phys Soc Coffee Talk: On Thursday, February 28th, the physics society will be sitting down with Bruce Campbell, a member of the Carleton Theory team, to host a discussion entitled "Things That We Don't Know". The discussion will be held at Rooster's on the 4th floor Unicentre from 6 to 8pm.

Canadian Association of Physicists Lecture: On Friday, February 29th, Eldon Emberly from Simon Fraser University will be giving a talk entitled 'How cells measure space and time'. This will take place in Unicentre 180 at 10am. Don't miss it!

You don't have to look far to see the sophisticated technology that we have developed to measure space and time, whether it be the complex inner-workings of a watch or the GPS equipped compass that you might use on a backcountry expedition. But what about microorganisms? How is a microorganism, which calculates via biochemical reactions, able to make accurate measurements of time and space? In this talk I will highlight some of the amazing biological circuitry that cells use to keep time, showing how physical modeling can be used to gain insight into how these clocks function. But cells are also capable of measuring space - it's essential
that developing organisms put tissues where they are meant to be. I will discuss how cells measure their spatial location and how they overcome the complications of living in a noisy chemical environment.
Squash Tournament: The annual tournament will be held on February 29th and March 6th from 4 - 7pm . To sign up, talk to Steven Crane, visit HP 2221, or e-mail cuphyssoc@gmail.com. It's not too late to sign up! There is a 5$ registration fee.

Hockey Tournament: This will also be held in March. If interested in playing in this tournament talk to Mike Cunningham or Hass AbouZeid, visit HP 2221, or e-mail us. Dates also TBA.

Sudbury Neutrino Observatory: The plans for our annual trip to snow are underway. Please send us an e-mail early if you are interested. Priority will be given to upper year students who have not visited SNO yet. Plans will be finalized once we have an idea of how much interest there is.

Upcoming Phys Soc Executive Elections: It's that time of year to elect the exec members for the coming academic year. If interested in being nominated or nominating someone else drop by HP 2221 or send us an e-mail.

Hope to see you all on Thursday!


Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Hi everyone!

This is just a quick announcement to let everyone know that the Physics Society is hosting a trip to the Herzberg Observatory THIS Thursday. This is an event you don't want to miss! We'll be meeting on 2nd Herzberg in front of the pendulum at 7pm. There will be directions posted for latecomers. Thanks to Robert Dick for volunteering his time for this event.

In brief:
  • What: Trip to the observatory!
  • Where: Meet in front of the big pendulum on 2nd Herzberg.
  • When: 7pm, Thursday, January 31st, 2008.
  • Why: Because it's awesome!
Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hot on the trail of particle dark matter: liveblog

Renée here - liveblogging from the back of Tory 208. Today, Dan Hooper from Fermilab is giving a talk on the subject of dark matter. I'll be giving live updates as the hour progresses.

Over seventy years, the evidence has steadily grown that much of the Universe's mass is non-luminous. Still today, however, we have not identified what makes up this mysteriously dark substance. Many experimental programs that hope to change this are underway, including deep underground detectors, gamma-ray telescopes, neutrino and anti-matter detectors, as well as particle colliders. Each of these efforts are searching for clues of dark matter's identity. With the new technologies needed to observe these particles rapidly developing, the hunt to discover dark matter's identity is well underway.
1:16pm - Dan Hooper is setting up his computer. Heather Logan begins to introduce to the speaker. A few more people trickle in. Dan has published a book on dark matter (Dark Cosmos: In Search of Our Universe's Missing Mass and Energy) and was a post doc at Oxford. Dan speaks.

1:17 - slide 1: A Brief History of Dark Matter. Dan explains that there has been too little luminous matter in galaxies and and clusters of galaxies for many decades and how by the end of the 1970's the existence of dark matter was obvious.

1:19 - slide 2: What is Dark Matter? There are two hypothesis': MaCHOs (Massive Compact Halo Objects) and WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Particles)

1:20 - slide 3: MaCHOs. The result of the end points of stellar evolution. Black holes, neutron stars, etc are MaCHO candidates for dark matter.

1:22 - slide 4: Problem's with MaCHO.

1:24 - slide 5: A Brief History in the WMAP Sky. Dan explains the "age of precision cosmology"

1:25 - slide 6: "The world is full of thinsg which nobody by any chance ever observes." - Sherlock Holmes

1:26 - slide 7: Dark Matter. Dan explains the dark matter imprint in the cosmic microwave background. We have never seen dark matter interact with anything but gravity. Postulate: Maybe DM doesn't exist, maybe we don't understand gravity.

1:27 - slide 8: MOdified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND). Quite succesful in explaining how galaxies behave, not clusters though. MOND cannot be applied to cosmology.

1:29 - slide 9: DM and MONDs of the Past. Dan compares DM and MOND theories.

1:30 - slide 9: Picture of a bullet cluster from NASA/Chandra Press Release Aug 21, 2006. Dan point out Baryonic matter (hot gas) and Total Mass in the image. Conclusion: Not a simple modification of gravity, it is in fact DM. The End Of MOND!/? A Challenge For MOND.

1:33 - slide 10: But what are the WIMPs?

1:33 - slide 11: The Field of Particle DM Candidates. Picture of the US electoral candidates.

1:34 - slide 12: The Thermal Abundance of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles.

1:35 - slide 13: The Weak Scale and Weakly Interacting Massive Particles. Weak interaction yields a picobond, an indication that DM originates from EW physics.

1:37 - slide 14: Supersymmetry. Symmetry between bosons and fermions - an extension of the Standard Model.

1:38 - slide 15: Why Supersymmetry? With supersymmetry, fermion and boson loops cancel each other. WIth supersymmetry, all 3 forces unify at a single energy.

1:40 - slide 16: Supersymmetric Dark Matter. Possible WIMP candidates from supersymmetry include Neutralinos and Sneutrinos, but Sneutrino was excluded by direct detection.

1:42 - slide 17: Supersymmetry at the Tevatron.

1:43 - slide 18: Supersymmetry at the LHC.

1:44 - slide 19: Astrophysical Probes of Particle DM. Direct detection and indirect detection.

1:45 - slide 20: Direct Detection.

At this point, many slides are going by explaining WIMP detection, the XENON 10 limit, WIMPs worldwide. I'll drop the slide numbering now.

1:47 - slide: Indirect Detection of DM. Wimp Annihilation, Fragmentaion/Decay, Sychrotron Radiation.

1:48 - slide: Indirect Detection with Gamma-Rays.

1:49 - slide: Gamma-Rays From the Galactic Center.

1:50 - slide: Indirect Detection With Neutrinos. High E neutrinos used. The IceCube detector is explained. It's a full cubic kilometer.

1:52 - slide :Indirect Detection With Anti-Matter. Upcoming experiments, PAMELA, AMS-02, will measure the cosmic anti-matter spectrum.

1:54 - slide: Indirect Detection With Positrons. HEAT experiment reported an excess of high-E positrons in 3 balloon flights.

1:58 - slide: Indirect Detection With Sychrotron.

2:00 - slide: WMAP As A Sychrotron Telescope. Images are shown to illustrate how WMAP images are generated. The "WMAP Haze" is explained as a 20 degree bright spot in the center of our galaxy. Very difficult to explain astrophysically.

2:04 - slide: DM in the WMAP Sky. Finkbeiner suggested that the WMAP Haze could be sychrotron from electrons/positrons produced in DM annihilations in the inner galaxy.

2:05 - slide: The Remarkable Match Of The WMAP Haze To The Signal Expected From DM. The properties described as "very vanilla".

2:07 - slide: Summary. The search for DM is very exciting, many models have been ruled out with direct detection experiments. Hard sychrotron emission from the inner galaxy observed by WMAP is a compelling signature of DM annihilations. LHC is almost certain to discover low E supersymmetry if it exists in nature, but it's hard to theorize about what will be discovered. A few years from now, our understanding of DM will almost certain be very different - either a discover is made or new ideas needed.

2:11 - Applause. Dan plugs his book, and so will we: Check it out!

2:13 - Questions are taken. What fraction of the mass of the sun would be DM? A 10th of a percent - a surprisingly small amount. Heather Logan asks a technical question. Dan breaks out the chalk.

2:16 - More applause.

Wow, that was a fast-paced and interesting talk! The Physics Society would like to thank the physics department for setting up the talk and Dan Hooper for giving such an accessible talk!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Welcome back

Welcome to the 2008 winter term! Now that we're two weeks into class, things have finally gotten underway. We have lots of fun things planned for this term, so here's a brief overview of what's in store:

Next week there will be an undergrad level seminar on dark matter. The speaker is Dan Hooper from Fermilab and he will be speaking at 1:15pm in 208 Tory on Tuesday, the 22nd.

Over seventy years, the evidence has steadily grown that much of the Universe's mass is non-luminous. Still today, however, we have not identified what makes up this mysteriously dark substance. Many experimental programs that hope to change this are underway, including deep underground detectors, gamma-ray telescopes, neutrino and anti-matter detectors, as well as particle colliders. Each of these efforts are searching for clues of dark matter's identity. With the new technologies needed to observe these particles rapidly developing, the hunt to discover dark matter's identity is well underway.
For more information see the physics seminar webpage.

On Wednesday, January 30th, the physics society and the math society will be joining forces for a pub night! Check the posters around Herzberg for more information.

Also on the 31st (tentatively - weather permitting), the phys soc will be taking a trip to the top of the Herzberg building for look through the observatory. The date will be finalized as it approaches.

The phys soc will be starting a series of evening discussion groups with different members of the faculty next month. Our first one will be with Bruce Campbell on the 14th of February from 6pm to 8pm at Rooster's. Come have a coffee and take advantage of this opportunity to get to know a faculty member and learn something you probably didn't know about physics! Topic TBA.

The annual squash tournament will be held at the end of February. To sign up, talk to Steven Crane, visit HP 2221, or e-mail cuphyssoc@gmail.com. Dates TBA when finalized.

Also, two hockey tournaments are in the works. To sign up for those, talk to Mike Cunningham or Hass AbouZeid, visit HP 2221, or e-mail us. Dates also TBA.

Well, that's it! Keep checking the feed for more information about upcoming events!

Renée Yoxon, Co-VP CUPS
Experimental Physics Undergrad