Seminar Series‎ > ‎

Seminar Series 2010-2011

Seminar # 7: Dr. Jeremy Heyl
                             UBC Physics and Astronomy

Shaking and Baking Neutron Stars
When: Wednesday, March 16th @ 4:00 pm
Where: CEME 1204

A general theme threads my research: how is our understanding of astrophysical phenomena and fundamental physics connected.  Neutron stars provide a laboratory to test our knowledge of nature at the extreme.  The magnetic fields, densities and pressures of neutron stars exceed those produced on Earth more than a billion-fold. Neutron stars provide a unique opportunity to extrapolate and verify our theories of matter, energy and their interaction.  I will present observations of tsunamis and earthquakes on neutron stars and what they can tell us
about these extreme objects.

Snacks and refreshments -- lots of them -- will be provided.

Seminar # 6:  Dr. Mark van Raamsdonk
                             UBC Physics and Astronomy

Adventures in String Theory
When: Wednesday, March 9th @ 4:00 pm
Where: MCLD 418

String theory research is one of the most ambitious endeavors in science,
pting to answer some of the most fundamental questions: What are the
tary constituents of matter from which everything is built? How did
our universe begin? How will it end? What is inside a black hole?
estions like these were once pure philosophy; however, advances in our
understanding of physics over the last century have brought us closer to
answering them than we could have possibly imagined. In this talk, I'll
provide a window into the fascinating world of string theory research and
discuss some of the remarkable ideas at the heart of the subject.

Snacks and refreshments will be provided.

Seminar # 5:  Andrew Lau and Eliza Boyce
                              Zaber Technologies Inc.

Building a company -- one microstep at a time
When: Wednesday, January 19th @ 5:00 pm
Where: HENN 200

Zaber Technologies designs and manufacturers precision motion control devices. Basically they are tiny little robots that move very small distances (sub-micron) under computer control. These are used for everything from aligning components in laser systems to biomedical experiments. We have customers in 50+ countries around the world, and 20% of our employees are Fizzers.

We are going to talk about two things:

- How to start a high tech company with no money and no experience.
- How to achieve precision motion control with inexpensive and imprecise components.

For more information, please see

Snacks and refreshments will be provided.

Seminar # 4:  Dr. Michel Laberge
                              President, General Fusion Inc.

Nuclear fusion development at General Fusion Inc.
When: Thursday, December 2nd @ 4:00 pm
Where: MCLD 242

General Fusion (GF) is a privately funded company with the ultimate goal of building a nuclear fusion electrical power plant. Just that!!! GF is using a hot fusion method called Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF). MTF is a fusion approach first developed in 1976 and still studied very slowly by various labs with very little resources. In MTF a relatively cool and low density magnetized plasma is first formed. The plasma has electrical current flowing inside generating magnetic fields that confine it; there are no external coils to support this so called compact torus (CT). The self-supporting CT is then sent into a metallic container that is rapidly collapsed, compressing and heating the plasma to thermonuclear conditions. This injection-compression cycle is repeated to produce power. GF proposes to use a new lower cost compression system. By applying more resources and with the faster development possible in a small private company, GF hopes to demonstrate net energy gain from this fusion approach in a few years and a power plant in less than a decade.

For more information, please see

Snacks and refreshments will be provided.

Seminar # 3:  Dr. Jaymie Matthews
                              UBC Physics and Astronomy
Where will Avatar 2 be set? The real science of real exoplanets   
When: Tuesday, November 16th @ 4:00 pm
Where: CHEM C124

People have been visiting alien worlds in the movie theatres for
 more than 100 years, since Georges Melies tooks audiences on "A
Trip to the Moon" in 1902.  But it has only been since 1995 that astronomers have been able to explore alien worlds around Sun-like
stars (remotely, with telescopes) after the discovery of the "hot Jupiter" exoplanet 51 Pegasi b.  And only recently that exoplanets
have been found whose masses and sizes approach those of the Earth. And very soon, the idea of an exoEarth will no longer be science
fiction but science fact.

Are there Pandoras out there?  Are there Goldilocks Planets?
 What's a Goldilocks Planet and is one of them Gliese 581g?  It
sounds like a boring name for an alien world that could support life, and one that could inspire the setting of the next Avatar
film.  It might not even be a real world with a warm watery surface, but one thing is certain: the name Gliese 581g will
generate heat for some time to come.

The recent announcement of this exoplanet made astronomers and
 exobiologists almost as excited as if they had found Pandora or
Tatooine. Why?  Because Gliese 581g would have been the first planet known, other than our Earth, to orbit in the Habitable Zone,
at a distance from its parent star that would allow liquid water to exist on its surface.  Think of it as the "Goldilocks Zone"
where the planet is not too hot, not too cold, but "just right" for water oceans.  And maybe just right for life?

Even more recent was the suggestion by other expert exoplanet
 hunters that Gliese 581 g was a figment, not of one's imagination,
but of the noise inherent in the measurements made to find planets around other stars.  Now you see it; now you don't.  Has Goldilocks
turned into the Cheshire Cat?  And have astronomers fallen down the rabbit hole?

A few years ago, the subject of life on other planets seemed like a
 fairy tale (or an X Files rerun).  Today, we are on the verge of
finding exoEarths (Earth-sized planets in Earth-sized orbits around Sun-like stars).  How do we search for alien worlds?  What have we
found?  How will we look for evidence of life on these planets as we find Goldilocks worlds?  Find out on November 16th.

Snacks and refreshments will be provided.

Seminar # 2:
  Dr. Donald Witt
                              UBC Physics and Astronomy
A Simple Life in Flatland?
When: Thursday, October 28th @ 4:00 pm
Where: MacMillan Room 160

In 1884, Edwin Abbot published the satirical book Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. This book has
motivated many readers to think of how to visualize extra dimensions. A natural question is, what are the laws of 
physics in flatland or, more precisely, 3-dimensional spacetimes? This is not only a toy model of the real world; 
the physics of spacetime dimensions other than the observed 4 are considered for everything from the 
Large Hadron Collider to cosmology. Furthermore, on the intermediate scales, the physics of certain condensed 
matter systems and of certain quantum computers are described by theories in lower dimensions. In this talk, I 
will discuss some current research on aspects of gravitational physics in 3 dimensional spacetimes related to 
problems at the forefront of modern theoretical physics.

Snacks and refreshments will be provided.

Seminar # 1:
  Dr. Martin Laforest
                              Manager, Scientific Outreach for 
Institute for Quantum Computing, University of Waterloo


Quantum Information Processing: When tiny things do big things
When: Thursday, September 30th @ 4:00 pm
Where: Woodward Lecture Hall 6

When we look back through the history of humankind, a pattern emerges: when humans harness a force of nature, great changes occur. Take the discovery of fire, which led to agriculture, communal living and  the eventual development of steam power, which sparked the industrial revolution. The discovery of electromagnetism was the catalyst that led to incalculable technological advancements leading to today’s information society. For the past 20 years or so, mathematicians, computer scientists, chemists, physicists and engineers have been working to harness the next, and most fundamental, forces of nature — the laws governing the quantum world. By harnessing and controlling quantum effects such as the superposition principle and entanglement, quantum information processing promises significant improvements over today's computing, communications and sensing technologies, among many other advancements. In this talk, I will overview the theoretical and experimental bases of quantum information processing.

For more info, please see:

Snacks and refreshments will be provided.