Hello and Welcome to the Oxford University Physics Society! This year, we have plenty of events on, including talks, socials, extracurricular classes and much more. This isn’t a society just for physicists – we host events for anyone interested in physics, its applications, and other related topics! To find out more, check out our Youtube channelFacebook page or subscribe to our mailing list.

How do I get involved? Simple. Head over to How to Join and follow the instructions there.

Keep it |ψ|!


Next Events:

Trinity Term events are yet to be scheduled but will uploaded here as soon as they are!


Trinity 2021 Term Card

Stay tuned for new events to come in Trinity Term!


Past Events:

Hilary 2021 Term Card

Week 8, Thursday, Prof. Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell: “We are made of star stuff”

Join us on next Thursday for a talk by Prof Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell on where all the elements come from! Here is the abstract for the talk:

Have you ever thought where the chemical elements in your body were formed; or how they got to be in you? This talk will describe our latest understanding of the answers to such questions.

Check out our speaker here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jocelyn_Bell_Burnell

Week 8, Wednesday, Prof. Paul Fendley: “A Theory of Theories”

Next Wednesday you can learn about the renormalisation group from Prof Paul Fendley! Here is the abstract for the talk:

The renormalisation group is the most profound development in theoretical physics in the last half-century. It goes beyond a theoretical understanding of only one particular phenomenon, instead enabling one to show that seemingly distinct physical systems have exactly the same behaviour. This correspondence is called “universality”, and the renormalisation group provides a precise framework for understanding which details of a theory are irrelevant and which are universal. It in this sense a “theory of theories”. One happy by-product is that this approach allows one to make sense of the quantum field theories that describe particle physics.
In this class I will introduce the renormalisation group and what it’s good for, fleshing out the popular-level overview in https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-renormalization-saved…/

Check out our speaker here: https://ncatlab.org/nlab/show/Paul+Fendley

Week 7, Thursday, 3rd and 4th Year Talks

Do you want to hear what your fellow students are up to? This is your chance! On Thursday, students in their 3rd and 4th year will be giving short talks about their projects. Here is our current line-up:

Thomas Savage: Simulating Magnetic Levitation Vehicles in MATLAB and Simulink

Runbei Cheng: Embedding Fibre Optic Sensors in Additive Manufacturing

Tasmin Sarkany: Evolutionary Biophysics

Matthew Nicholson: Supernova Triangulation Using Neutrino Astronomy

Week 7, Wednesday, Prof. Andrew Wells: “The physics of ice sheets and glaciers”

Join us on Wednesday for a talk on the physics of ice sheets and glaciers, by Prof Andrew Wells. Here is what he will be talking about:

Mass loss from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets is a key uncertainty for predictions of sea level change over the coming century. The evolution of large glacial ice sheets depends on a number of physical processes, including the mechanical deformation and flow of the ice, and thermodynamic forcing from the atmosphere and ocean. In this class I will introduce the key physical controls on the mass budget of ice sheets, and how these processes can be described using continuum models of ice flow. I will highlight several outstanding research challenges along the way, and discuss marine ice sheet instability.

We will assume some knowledge of introductory mechanics, differential equations and multivariable calculus as typically seen in the first year of a physics undergraduate degree. Other concepts involving thermodynamics and fluid mechanics will be introduced as needed during the lecture.

Check out our speaker here: https://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/contacts/people/wellsa

Week 6, Wednesday, Prof. Sonia Contera: “The physics underlying the shape of a living organism”

Join us tomorrow for a talk on how shape emerges in living organisms! Here is the abstract for the talk:

To be alive, biological organisms must grow and construct structures that endure the pass of time in a complex environment, without violating the second law of thermodynamics. This is achieved by constantly creating shapes that both store and dissipate mechanical energy; this process generates the temporal scales that are characteristic of biological growth patterns at different spatial scales. Understanding the physics of biological growth and shape therefore requires measurement of mechanical energy. In my class I will discuss some of the physics involved, and since I am an experimentalist I will explain the techniques que use and develop to measure that; I will use some maths but not too complicated. I will also discuss how this work is not just interesting for biological physics, but also for the future of bioinspired computers and even, possibly quantum devices.

Check out our speaker here: https://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/cont…/people/antoranzcontera

Week 5, Thursday, Dr. Ellen R. Stofan: “Leading Women in Science to Infinity and Beyond”

Join us on Thursday of 5th week at 6pm to hear about the exciting life of Dr. Ellen Stofan, John and Adrienne Mars Director of the National Air and Space Museum. We will be discussing everything from her experience being the first woman to run the National Air and Space Museum, to NASA and the space race!

Stofan was previously Chief Scientist at NASA, serving as principal advisor to the Administrator on science programs and strategic planning. She is currently on the Science and Engineering team of NASA’s Dragonfly mission working to send a rotorcraft lander to Saturn’s moon Titan. Stofan holds master’s and doctorate degrees in geological sciences from Brown University, and a bachelor’s degree from the College of William And Mary. She serves on National Geographic’s Board of Trustees, and is an honorary professor at University College London.

Week 5, Wednesday, Prof. Bence Kocsis: “Black Hole Astrophysics”

Join us on Wednesday for a talk on black hole physics! Here is what Prof Kocsis will be talking about:

Black holes are the ultimate prisons of the Universe, regions of spacetime where the enormous gravity prohibits matter or even light to escape to infinity. Yet, matter falling toward the black holes may shine spectacularly, generating the strongest source of radiation. These sources provide us with astrophysical laboratories of extreme physical conditions that cannot be realized on Earth. In this talk I will review this exciting field of research, recent developments, and some of the open questions.

Check out our speaker here: http://www.sns.ias.edu/~bkocsis/

Week 4, Wednesday, Prof. David Wark: “Neutrinos – Ghostly messengers of new physics (Part 2)”

Join us on Wednesday for Part 2 of our two-part series on neutrino physics by Prof David Wark! Here’s his abstract again:

Neutrinos were first proposed in the early 1930’s to explain some puzzles in some of the very earliest particle physics data. Their originator, Wolfgang Pauli, apologized for having proposed something that could not be observed (the last theorist known to have made that apology). Luckily Pauli was right in his proposal and wrong in his fear, as neutrinos have now been detected from reactors, from the sun, from cosmic ray interactions in the atmosphere, from radioactive sources, from accelerators, and even from a supernova in a nearby galaxy. They have provided surprises at almost every step, and the recent discovery of neutrino oscillations still constitutes the only laboratory demonstration of physics beyond the Standard Model. The talk will give a brief history and then discuss the experimental results that resulted in the discovery of neutrino oscillations, and then go on to describe what we plan on doing next. We will concentrate on the experiments, not on the theory, so the maths will not be challenging, but it would be helpful to review basic quantum mechanics to understand the concepts involved in oscillations.

Check out our speaker here: https://www.balliol.ox.ac.uk/professor-david-wark

Week 3, Wednesday, Prof. David Wark: “Neutrinos – Ghostly messengers of new physics”

Join us on Wednesday for Part 1 of our two-part series on neutrino physics by Prof David Wark! Here’s what he will be talking about:

Neutrinos were first proposed in the early 1930’s to explain some puzzles in some of the very earliest particle physics data. Their originator, Wolfgang Pauli, apologized for having proposed something that could not be observed (the last theorist known to have made that apology). Luckily Pauli was right in his proposal and wrong in his fear, as neutrinos have now been detected from reactors, from the sun, from cosmic ray interactions in the atmosphere, from radioactive sources, from accelerators, and even from a supernova in a nearby galaxy. They have provided surprises at almost every step, and the recent discovery of neutrino oscillations still constitutes the only laboratory demonstration of physics beyond the Standard Model. The talk will give a brief history and then discuss the experimental results that resulted in the discovery of neutrino oscillations, and then go on to describe what we plan on doing next. We will concentrate on the experiments, not on the theory, so the maths will not be challenging, but it would be helpful to review basic quantum mechanics to understand the concepts involved in oscillations.

Check out our speaker here: https://www.balliol.ox.ac.uk/professor-david-wark

Week 2, Thursday, Prof. Hannah Christensen: “Butterflies and Hurricanes – The Physics of Weather Prediction”

Join us on Thursday for a talk on the physics of weather and climate predictions! Here is the abstract for the talk:

What the public often don’t realise is that weather prediction is a problem in physics. Producing a weather forecast requires understanding the equations that describe the atmosphere, including the Navier-Stokes equations, and the equations of thermodynamics and radiation, among many others. But more fundamentally, it requires an appreciation of chaos theory, a special property of some systems including the atmosphere. In this talk I’ll introduce the problem of atmospheric prediction, starting with how we produce forecasts on the timescale of a few days, before looking further and further ahead, through seasonal and decadal forecasts to climate prediction. We’ll talk about chaos theory, uncertainty, predictability, and prediction. As Niels Bohr once said, “It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future”

Check out our speaker here: https://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/contacts/people/arnold

Week 2, Tuesday & Wednesday, Going beyond the Standard Model

Schedule:

Wednesday 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Prof Jon Butterworth (UCL)
News from the energy frontier: An update on results from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, and something about ideas for what might come next

Wednesday 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dr. Kimberly Palladino (Oxford)
The state of the dark: An update on the field of direct dark matter detection

Thursday 1:00pm- 2:00pm
Prof Matthew Wing (UCL)
New accelerator technology to enable searches for dark photons and investigation of QCD

Thursday 2:00pm- 3:00pm
Dr Jose Eliel Camargo-Molina (Imperial)
Beyond the Standard Models: Probing the intersection of cosmology and particle physics

Thursday 3:00pm- 4:00pm
Dr William Barter (Imperial)
Testing nature by examining flavour

Thursday 4:00pm- 5:00pm
Prof David Wark (Oxford)
Through a mirror darkly: Neutrinos and the mystery of the missing antimatter

Week 1, Thursday, Ciaran Hasnip: “DUNE – The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment and the PhD student experience”

Join us on Thursday for a talk on the DUNE (The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment). Ciaran Hasnip will also talk about what it’s like to be a PhD student. This is a great opportunity to ask questions if you are considering a PhD!

Week 1, Wednesday, Prof. Vlatko Vedral: “Modern Quantum Optics”

Join us on Wednesday for our first talk of the term! Professor Vlatko Vedral will be giving a talk about modern quantum optics. About his talk:

I will introduce some of the basic notions behind light quantization, such as that of photons, the vacuum energy, and the basics of how light couples to matter. I will then discuss the use of photons as qubits in various approaches to building a scalable quantum computer. If time permits, I intend to talk about our latest efforts to entangle organic molecules, including living systems, using photons. Desirable, but not necessary: first year quantum mechanics, linear algebra, some basic knowledge of the atomic structure, and thermodynamics…

Check out our speaker here: https://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/contacts/people/vedral

Michaelmas 2020 Term Card

Week 8, Thursday, Daniel Bortoletto: “Science for peace at the high energy frontier”

Join us on Thursday for a talk by Prof Daniela Bortoletto on open science at CERN! Here is the abstract for the talk:

A journey into the discovery and study of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider which will highlight the open science environment of CERN. Plans for future colliding beam facilities to perform Higgs boson studies will also be presented.

Check out our speaker here: https://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/contacts/people/bortolettod

Week 7, Wednesday, Jan Sbierski: “General relativity, black holes, and the strong cosmic censorship conjecture”

Join us next Wednesday for a talk on GR, black holes and the strong cosmic censorship conjecture by Dr. Jan Sbierski. Here is his abstract for the talk:

Einstein’s theory of general relativity brings together his special theory of relativity with Newtonian gravity — and in doing so completely revolutionised our concepts of space, time, inertia, and gravity itself. In this talk we will retrace a few thought experiments which led to the formulation of general relativity and which will help us to understand its mathematical formulation. We will then look more closely at the notion of a black hole spacetime and introduce the strong cosmic censorship conjecture, which is one of the important open problems in classical general relativity. The talk does not presuppose any knowledge of general relativity. Familiarity with the basics of special relativity would be helpful, but is not essential.

Check out our speaker here: https://www.magd.ox.ac.uk/member-of-staff/dr-jan-sbierski-2/

Week 6, Wednesday, Prof. James Read: “The Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics”

Join us on Wednesday for a class on the philosophy of quantum mechanics by James Read. Here is what he will be talking about:

“If you think you understand quantum mechanics, then you don’t understand quantum mechanics”. So said Richard Feynman. But is this fair? Since the mid-20th century, a large number of sophisticated and coherent approaches to quantum mechanics have been developed, all of which purport to overcome the confusions, unclarities and inconsistencies present in the orthodox presentation of the theory. In this class, I’ll survey the essential aspects of these approaches, and point to outstanding issues with each. The class will presuppose some basics of linear algebra, but will not be very mathematical. For those who wish to read something beforehand, please look at John Bell’s “Against measurement”.

Check out our speaker here: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~orie2304/

Week 5, Thursday, Prof. Joshua Shaevitz: “Dewetting in Living Organisms”

On Thursday, Professor Joshua Shaevitz will be giving a talk on active and passive dewetting in living organisms. Here is his abstract for the talk:

The dewetting of a fluid from a solid interface, such as the beading of rain droplets on a raincoat, can be seen in many phenomena from our daily lives. I will discuss two systems in which dewetting phenomena play a key role in the biology of living cells. I will first discuss the formation of droplets of a liquid phase of the protein TPX2. This fluid dewets from the surface of polymeric microtubules via the passive Rayleigh-Plateau instability to define the birth place of the majority of microtubules in your body. I will then discuss an active form of dewetting as a model for how the soil dwelling bacterium Myxococcus xanthus forms protective “fruiting body” droplets in a response to starvation. Inspired by recent work on active matter and the physics of liquid crystals, I will discuss experiments that reveal how these cells generate nematic order, how defect structure can dictate global behavior, and how Myxo actively tune the Péclet number of the population to drive a dewetting phase transition and droplet formation.

Check out our speaker and his group here: https://shaevitzlab.princeton.edu/

Week 4, Thursday, Prof. Samar Khatiwala: “What Goes Down Must Come Up”

On Thursday, Prof Samar Khatiwala will teach you all you ever wanted to know about ocean circulation and how it affects human made climate change.

The ocean’s key role in regulating Earth’s climate is in large part due to its thermohaline circulation that transports water and climatically important trace gases such as carbon dioxide from the surface into the ocean interior and back to the surface. This so-called “conveyor belt” circulation allows the ocean to absorb and sequester CO2 and heat on centennial to millennial time scales, thus potentially mitigating the impact of anthropogenic climate change. Quantitatively characterizing this complex circulation is an important problem in oceanography and climate science but remains highly challenging because of the eddy-diffusive nature flow of the flow and the scarcity of observations. In this talk I will present a mathematically rigorous approach to characterizing ocean circulation based on Green’s functions that accounts for the multiplicity of transport pathways and transit times characteristic of the ocean’s turbulent flow. I will use observations and simulations from global ocean general circulation models to illustrate these ideas and describe their implications for our understanding of the ocean’s large scale circulation and CO2 uptake.

Check out our speaker here: https://www.earth.ox.ac.uk/people/samar-khatiwala/

Week 4, Wednesday, Dr. Cyril Closset: “Supersymmetry – A lesson in the Physics of Mathematics”

On Wednesday, Dr. Cyril Closset will give a talk on supersymmetry!

Modern physics, starting with the advance of quantum mechanics a century ago, relies on increasingly `abstract’ mathematics. Conversely, the history of mathematics is replete with examples of new important research directions motivated by questions of physics. Supersymmetry, a postulated new symmetry of elementary particles which relates forces and matter, currently occupies a central role in the still-ongoing dialogue between mathematics and physics. While supersymmetry has its origin and motivation in particle physics, there is so far no experimental evidence that it is realised in Nature. Nonetheless, it remains a very fruitful concept in both physics and mathematics. I will explain this state of affairs in some detail. First, I will explain “supersymmetry” from a mathematical point of view, in concrete and elementary terms, using first-year calculus. I will then discuss some motivations for studying supersymmetry in physics, which is related to both the study of quantum fields and of quantum gravity. Finally, I will go over several uses of supersymmetry in pure mathematics.

Check out our speaker here: https://www.maths.ox.ac.uk/people/cyril.closset

Week 3, Thursday, Ian Shipsey: “Bionic Hearing – the science and the experience”

On Thursday, Ian Shipsey will introduce you to the science of cochlear implants! He will also tell you about his own experience with a cochlear implant which allowed him to regain his hearing after over a decade of being deaf. Here is his plan for Thursday:

Cochlear implants are the first device to successfully restore neural function. They have instigated a popular but controversial revolution in the treatment of deafness, and they serve as a model for research in neuroscience and biomedical engineering. After a visual tour of the physiology of natural hearing the function of cochlear implants will be described in the context of electrical engineering, psychophysics, clinical evaluation, and my own personal experience.

The audience will have the opportunity to experience speech and music heard through a cochlear implant. The social implications of cochlear implantation and the future outlook for auditory prostheses will also be discussed.

About the speaker:
Ian Shipsey is a particle physicist, and a Professor of Physics at Oxford University. He has been profoundly deaf since 1989. In 2002 he heard the voice of his daughter for the first time, and his wife’s voice for the first time in thirteen years thanks to a cochlear implant. The presentation will be at the level of Scientific American.

Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86751631666?pwd=T0l0QStRekxpZkl1S1V0bUpPdlZNQT09

Week 3, Wednesday, Prof. Christopher Beem: “String Theory and the Geometry of Spacetime”

For this Wednesday class, Prof Christopher Beem will be giving a talk about string theory! Here is what he has planned for us:

String theory (in its most traditional form) postulates that the basic dynamical objects of the natural world (or perhaps of some other hypothetical world) are not the point particles of traditional particle physics, but instead are fundamental strings, which have a single dimension of spatial extent. When combined with the general principles of quantum theory, this string postulate has many surprising consequences which have motivated extensive research in the area over the past half century. In the first half of this lecture, I will provide a speedy recap of several of string theory’s best known claims to fame, as well as some of the challenges facing the subject at present. In the second half of the lecture I will explain that in a stringy world, our most basic intuitions of the structure of space(time) itself can be radically modified. These ideas are not only physically fascinating, but they have led to important insights in the world of pure mathematics.

Join us here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85675672102…
Meeting ID: 856 7567 2102
Passcode: 414276

Check out the speaker here: https://people.maths.ox.ac.uk/beem/

Week 2, Thursday, Péter Juhász: “Ultracold Atoms – Many body quantum physics with the coolest stuff in the universe”

This Thursday you will have the opportunity to learn about ultracold atoms from Péter Juhász! You might remember him from his Varsity Sci talk which we got to host last month. Here is what he will be talking about:
If we are looking for the extremes of the Universe, chances are that we will not find them on Earth. However, when looking for the coldest (coolest) place anywhere, it’s better to look towards physics laboratories rather than the night sky. In this talk, I will describe how such low (few nK) temperatures can be attained and in what ways these ultracold atomic gases are used to test and explore many-body quantum physics.

Week 2, Wednesday, Prof. Seamus Davis: “Magnetic Monopole Noise”

For our first extracurricular class of the term we have Professor Seamus Davis. He will be talking about magnetic monopoles. Here is his abstract:
Magnetic monopoles are hypothetical elementary particles exhibiting quantized magnetic charge and quantized magnetic flux. A classic proposal for detecting such magnetic charges is to measure the quantized jump in magnetic flux threading the loop of a superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) when a monopole passes through it.

Naturally, with the theoretical discovery that a plasma of emergent magnetic charges should exist in several lanthanide-pyrochlore magnetic insulators including Dy2Ti2O7, this SQUID technique was proposed for their direct detection. Experimentally, this had proven extremely challenging because of the high number density, and the generation-recombination (GR) fluctuations, of the monopole plasma. Recently, however, theoretical advances have allowed the spectral density of magnetic-flux noise due to GR fluctuations of magnetic charge pairs to be predicted.

In response, we developed a high-sensitivity, SQUID based flux-noise spectrometer to measure the frequency and temperature dependence of magnetic flux noise for Dy2Ti2O7 samples. Virtually all the predicted features of the magnetic noise coming from a dense fluid of magnetic monopoles were then discovered emerging from crystals of Dy2Ti2O7. And, because this magnetic monopole noise occurs at frequencies below 20kHz, when amplified by the SQUID it is actually audible to humans: Nature 571, 234 (2019)
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1358-

Check out his research here: http://davis-group-quantum-matter-research.ie/

Week 1, Thursday, Prof. Subir Sarkar: “Beyond the Standard Cosmological Model”

The `standard model’ of cosmology is founded on the basis that the expansion rate of the universe is accelerating at present — as was inferred from the Hubble diagram of Type Ia supernovae. There now exists a much bigger database of supernovae so we can perform rigorous statistical tests to check whether these `standard(isable) candles’ indeed indicate cosmic acceleration. We find, rather surprisingly, that the inferred acceleration is mainly along the direction we seem to be moving with respect to the cosmic microwave background. It cannot therefore be due to the Cosmological Constant (aka vacuum energy), even though a variety of observations are supposed to have meanwhile confirmed its presence. This is an exciting time to be a cosmologist!

Check out our speaker here: https://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/contacts/people/sarkar


Archived Events:

You can find events from the previous academic year here: 2019-2020 Events Archive