2018-19 Academic Year

(Check our Facebook page for the most updated event details)

Trinity Term 2019 Term Card

– Week 1, Wednesday: Annual Black Tie Dinner

Enjoy some nice food and good company at our Physics Society annual black tie dinner.

More info on the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2294727747451817/

– Week 1, Thursday: Professor David Lucas: “Quantum Computers: The most powerful information processors allowed by the laws of physics”


Abstract from Professor Lucas:

Quantum computers are one of the most exciting and powerful new technologies predicted by quantum mechanics, but are enormously challenging to construct in practice. Building one is seen as one of the technological “grand challenges” of the 21st century. I will give an accessible introduction to the basic elements of quantum computing, namely qubits and quantum logic gates, with particular emphasis on my own research area (qubits based on single atoms held in ion traps), sketch the history of the field and show how progress is continuing at a rapid pace.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2135564716735694/

– Week 2, Thursday: Dr. Aprajita Verma: “Aperture Fever: The Extremely Large Telescope”



With a primary mirror of 39.3m, ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope will be the “World’s Biggest Eye on the Sky” operating in the visible to infrared wavelength range. The ELT will collect 13 times more light than the largest visible-infrared telescopes today and the telescope’s fully adaptive design will deliver images 16 times sharper than the HST. The sensitivity and spatial resolution afforded by the ELT will revolutionise our understanding of the Universe addressing numerous scientific questions from the nature of extra-solar planets to detecting first-light in the early Universe. The ELT has now begun its construction phase and I will review the status of the ELT project including the telescope and instruments, and discuss several key science themes this ground-breaking telescope will address from extra-solar planets to the earliest galaxies in the Universe.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/282844789261697/

– Week 3, Wednesday: Professor Steve Biller: “My Life as a SNO-Man”



I began my career at Oxford working on the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), which found the first unambiguously proof of neutrino flavour transformation, demonstrating neutrinos exists as mixed states and have mass. These properties are beyond predictions of The Standard Model and earned the project a Nobel Prize in 2015. Today I’m working at the same facility on a new and more challenging experiment, SNO+, which will look for evidence that neutrinos can also transform into their own antiparticles. Such a discovery would have profound implications for the origin of neutrino mass and could provide an explanation for the matter-antimatter asymmetry of the universe that explains how we managed to survived annihilation. This talk will present some of the history and details of SNO and SNO+ along with the context of past and future neutrino measurements… and a trip to Stockholm!

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/412807585966922/

– Week 4, Thursday: Professor Peter Read: “Hexagons, hot spots and hurricanes: The turbulent atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn”



Jupiter and Saturn are the two giant planets of the Solar System. Both are roughly 10 times the linear size of Earth and composed mostly of hydrogen and helium, so are likely in a fluid state almost throughout their interiors. They also rotate more rapidly than the Earth and are covered in layers of cloud composed of ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and water ice. Their atmospheric circulation has more features in common with the Earth’s oceans than its atmosphere. Though highly turbulent, their atmospheres are organised into semi-permanent banded patterns within which are found a wealth of waves, hurricane-like vortices and other kinds of eddy on all resolvable scales, including some large scale features that seem to persist for many years or even longer. Understanding how a turbulent atmosphere can spontaneously organise itself in this way to sustain long-lived structures in the presence of widespread chaotic motion presents continuing challenges to atmospheric scientists, with implications for our understanding of the Earth itself. This talk will review some of these intriguing phenomena and discuss some of the ideas emerging to explain them, including ongoing work in Oxford.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2396486240583534/

– Week 5, Thursday: Professor Alan Barr: “Seeing the Invisible at the Large Hadron Collider”



Finding evidence for invisible particles is tough, particularly if you know almost nothing about their properties. But if Dark Matter is made of weakly-interacting massive particles then one of the best places to look for them is the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. With about 1/20th of the anticipated LHC data now collected, I’ll explain how we have gone about searching for these invisibles, what we’ve found out so far. I’ll also describe how some clever and creative Oxford students have surprised the LHC community by performing searches that were previously believed to be impossible.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2039427536361095/

Hilary Term 2019 Term Card

– Week 1, Tuesday: Crew Date With Chemistry

Spice up your social life in HT with our Frist ever crew date with the chemistry society. Make some new friends, and banter about how we get physical N’ make chemistry.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/763643624003528/

– Week 2, Thursday: Professor Ben Allanach: “The Hunt for New Particles at the Large Hadron Collider”


Abstract from Professor Allanach:

We begin with a review of the big bang, the inference of dark matter and searches for new particles at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN

I will review searches for dark matter particles predicted by supersymmetric theories at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. The LHC trail has gone cold, but there are intriguing new discrepancies between measurements that the LHCb experiment and Standard Model predictions that may indicate the presence of a new force or particle.

Speaker Bio:

Professor Ben Allanach is a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Cambridge, in the Theoretical High Energy Particle Physics Group. He is currently working on collider searches for new physics with other members of the Cambridge Supersymmetry Working Group, especially at the Large Hadron Collider. See his webpage below for more information: http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/user/bca20/

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/247072869524247/

– Week 3, Wednesday: Professor Peter Reed’s class: “Bifurcations and Chaos in Fluids and Climate”


Abstract from Professor Read:

In this presentation, I will briefly review ideas relating to the development of chaos in autonomous dynamical systems and illustrate how these ideas may be applied to fluid dynamical systems in the laboratory and on geophysical scales. This will lead to a consideration of how such ideas can help us to understand why atmospheric circulation patterns combine highly disordered “turbulent” motions with large-scale organised structures.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/368009990663255/

– Week 3, Thursday: Professor Sonia Contera: “Non-equilibrium thermodynamics to understand growth and shape in biology including cancer”


Abstract from Professor Contera:

In my talk, I will show how we are using the atomic force microscope to measure the use of mechanical energy of living organisms (plants) to create their shapes and grow. I will also show how the study of mechanical energy stored and dissipated in biological structures is useful to understand the mechanism of anaesthetics, and improve chemotherapy in solid tumours.

Speaker Bio:

Professor Sonia Contera is an Associate Professor of Biological Physics at the Oxford Physics Department. Her work lies at the interface of physics, biology and nanotechnology, and she is an expert in atomic force microscopy of biological systems.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/371047563444689/

– Week 4, Wednesday: Dr. Marc Lackenby’s class: “Knot Theory” (Part 1)



Knots are a familiar aspect of everyday life: they arise when you do up your shoe laces for instance. They also play a role in various physical and biological phenomena, such as the replication of DNA. But there is in fact a well-established mathematical theory of knots, which I will introduce in my two lectures. This forms a branch of mathematics called topology. I’ll explain how topological techniques can be used to prove some interesting facts about knots. I’ll also give some problems about knots that mathematicians cannot yet solve. My lectures will be mathematical, but you won’t need anything beyond A-level mathematics to be able to understand them.

Speaker Bio:

Professor Marc Lackenby is a Professor of Mathematics at the Oxford Maths Department whose research concerns knot theory, low-dimensional topology and group theory.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/243174546563558/

– Week 4, Wednesday: Professor Roderich Moessner: “The Emergence of Magnetic Monopoles in Spin Ice”


Speaker Bio:

Prof. Roderich Moessner is a researcher in theoretical condensed matter physics. Having done his DPhil degree in Oxford under the supervision of Professor John Chalker, he is currently Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems, Dresden, Germany.

He is known for his work in a joint theoretical proposition realizing magnetic monopoles within spin ice. Professor Moessner has also received the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize for his contribution to the physics of strongly interacting quantum systems.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2211564265602499/

– Week 4, Thursday: TPP Physics Challenge


TPP is excited to announce a Physics Challenge on Thursday 7th February, in collaboration with the Oxford University Physics Society!

Unlike a typical pub quiz, you’ll need to exercise your problem solving skills to tackle the range of challenges set instead of applying your general knowledge.

There will be free food and drinks, both soft and alcoholic, available for attendees throughout the whole event. There will also be great prizes on offer for the winning teams (Raspberry Pis and a Hotel Chocolat hamper).

We recommend teams of about 5-6 people, but smaller groups are welcome too, and if you’re unsure who to come with then we’ll be happy to match you up with other keen problem solvers on the day.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/326946341358817/

– Week 5, Wednesday: Dr. Marc Lackenby’s class: “Knot Theory” (Part 2)

Continuation of Part 1 from the Week 4.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1155999144561708/

– Week 5, Thursday: Professor James Binney: “Fluctuations & Cosmic Evolution”



Galaxies and star clusters evolve over cosmic time through random exchanges of energy between stars. Fluctuations in the system’s gravitational field around its mean-field value are the agents of these exchanges. For generations it was thought that the fluctuations could be modelled by the moving Keplerian fields of individual stars, so stars interacted by scattering each other. A new formalism reveals that this picture is fundamentally wrong. Stars communicate with each other by broadcasting narrow-band signals that are carried by collection oscillations of the whole system, and absorbed by stars that happen to resonate at the broadcast frequency. The relevant fluctuations comprise large-scale collective modes of the system. I’ll report on the application of these ideas to galactic discs and to star clusters.

Speaker Bio:

Prof. James Binney is an astrophysicists at the University of Oxford, and the former head of Theoretical Physics at Oxford. He is known for his work on theoretical galactic and extragalactic astrophysics, and he has co-written the book which maps out the 2nd Year Quantum Mechanics course: The Physics of Quantum Mechanics.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/687462431656468/

– Week 6, Wednesday: Dr. Christopher Foot’s class: “The Black-Scholes Equation”



The derivation of the Black-Scholes equation and its application to the pricing of options will be described, including an introduction to the relevant financial terms such as call and put options. The background information about stochastic equations will use the example of a binomial-tree model. The class will be structured as tutorial-style answers to two questions from the Financial Physics short option on these topics, together with a short motivation.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1980746028898335/

– Week 6, Thursday: Professor Vlatko Vedral: “Quantum Mechanics: No End in Sight?”


Abstract from Professor Vedral:

Quantum mechanics is commonly said to be a theory of microscopic things: molecules, atoms, subatomic particles. Most physicists, though, think it applies to everything, no matter what the size. The reason its distinctive features tend to be hidden is not a simple matter of scale. Over the past few years, experimentalists have seen quantum effects in a growing number of macroscopic systems. The quintessential quantum effect, entanglement, can even occur in large systems as well as warm ones – including living organisms – even though molecular jiggling might be expected to disrupt entanglement. I will discuss how techniques from information theory, quantum and statistical physics, can all be combined to elucidate the physics of macroscopic objects. Can it be that only part of the macroscopic world is quantum, while the rest is, in some sense, classical?

This question is also of fundamental importance to the development of future quantum technologies, whose behavior takes place invariably in the macroscopic non-equilibrium quantum regime.

Speaker Bio:

Professor Vedral is a Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford and at the National University of Singapore. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Physics (UK). He is well-known for his research on Entanglement and Quantum Information theory. There are currently over 18,000 citations to Vlatko Vedral’s research papers.

Professor Vedral has also received several honours, including receiving the Marko V. Jaric award, the World Scientific Physics Research Medal, and the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/594945030970807/

– Week 6, Thursday: Annual General Meeting

The agenda for the meeting will be:
1) Annual Report and Accounts
2) Elections

Do come along even if you don’t plan on running for any positions as we need the society to be well-represented at the elections. We will head towards Lamb and Flag after the election.

– Week 7, Wednesday: Professor Andrew Dancer’s class: “Symplectic geometry and Hamiltonian systems”



We discuss how Hamilton’s equations in classical mechanics arise from the geometry of vector fields and differential forms, in particular a 2-form that defines a symplectic structure. This enables us to set Hamiltonian systems in a global, coordinate-free geometric context. We also discuss some generalisations like Poisson geometry.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1033937876800533/

– Week 8, Wednesday: Pub Night

Join us at the chequers pub on Wednesday to celebrate the end of HT, meet other physsocers and say hi to the new OUPS committee.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2309353272409098/

Michaelmas Term 2018 Term Card

– Week 1, Tuesday: Freshers Social at Oriel College

A warm welcome from the physics society to all the freshers! Whether you are a physics student or simply someone who’s fascinated by the laws of nature, this is a society for you! Get to know your peers by joining us on Tuesday, October 9th at Oriel College for our first social of the year, with free drinks, pizzas and games.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/727110010987963/

– Week 1, Thursday: Professor Andrew Wells: “Was Stefan a climate physicist? Plus other icy tales”



Undergraduate physicists often encounter Josef Stefan’s work in thermodynamics via the Stefan-Boltzmann Law for radiative transfer. However Stefan also made seminal contributions to polar geophysics via his modelling of crystal growth, motivated by the freezing of the Arctic Ocean to form sea ice. The talk will discuss the significance for polar climate of these so-called Stefan problems. Starting from Stefan’s analysis of the thermodynamics of ice growth, Professor Wells will introduce some of the weird and wonderful properties of sea ice, its interaction with atmospheric and oceanic fluid flows, and its role in nonlinear climate feedbacks. He will conclude by summarising some of the challenges in developing physically-based models to predict the future of sea ice in the Arctic.

Speaker Bio:

Andrew Wells is an Associate Professor in Physical Climate Science at the University of Oxford. His research group focuses on improving understanding of physical processes that contribute to controlling the climate state. His work uses mathematical and numerical methods to develop theoretical models informed by analogue laboratory experiments. His current research areas include the physics of sea ice, interaction of ice sheets and glaciers with the ocean, and turbulent buoyancy-driven fluid flow.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/536758806764038/

– Week 2, Thursday: Professor Jenny Nelson: “Solar Energy Conversion and Carbon Emissions Mitigation”



The recent publication of the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5oC stresses the urgency of addressing the challenge of global warming. Low carbon sources of energy such as solar will play a major role in the future of energy supply and in sustainable development. Challenges and opportunities lie in the development of new photovoltaic technologies with higher efficiency or with wider applicability, in the development of associated technologies for power distribution and storage, and in the policy and regulatory framework. In this talk we will discuss the role of solar energy in emissions mitigation, the challenges that need to be overcome, and the role of scientific research in meeting this critical goal.

Speaker Bio:

Jenny Nelson is a Fellow of the Royal Society, and has won many other awards include the Institue of Physics Faraday Medal and Prize. She is the Head of the Climate change mitigation team at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, and a Professor of Physics at the Blackett Laboratory. She is distinguished for the development of fundamental physical models, simulation tools and experiments to discover and exploit relationships between the performance of photovoltaic devices and the physical and chemical properties of the constituent materials. She is the author of the popular textbook, The Physics of Solar Cells.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/799088563849396/

– Week 3, Wednesday: Professor Achillefs Kapanidis’s class: “Illuminating biology by breaking the diffraction limit”


Speaker Bio:

Professor Achillefs Kapanidis is a Professor in Biological Physics. He joined Oxford Physics in 2004 to start a research group that uses ultrasensitive microscopy to study biological machinery involved in gene expression (the path from genes on DNA to functional proteins) and its regulation. His research group studies machines of gene expression by observing single bio-machines in real time, “in vitro” and in living cells. Its main tool is single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy, a technique that can measure nanometre distances and study molecular interactions in real time (as “molecular movies”). Its work is multidisciplinary, combining diverse disciplines such as optics, spectroscopy, biochemistry, molecular biology, computation, molecular modeling, and signal processing.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/284726558807890/

– Week 3, Thursday: Professor Tim Palmer: “The Real Butterfly Effect”



The Butterfly Effect – the notion that the flap of a butterfly’s wings can change the course of the weather – is one of the most famous scientific ideas in popular culture. In this talk, he will discuss the meaning of the “Butterfly Effect” as most people understand it today, in contrast to what Ed Lorenz, one of the founding fathers of chaos theory, originally intended it to mean.

Speaker Bio:

Tim Palmer is a Royal Society Research Professor in Climate Physics, interested in the dynamics and predictability of weather and climate. He pioneered the development of probabilistic ensemble forecasting techniques for weather and climate prediction (at the Met Office and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts). These techniques are now standard in operational weather and climate prediction around the world.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/285287938977109/

– Week 4, Wednesday: TPP Halloween Social and Physics Challenge


We are delighted to announce our Halloween social 2018 – in collaboration with TPP. Unlike a typical pub quiz, you’ll need to exercise your problem solving skills to tackle the range of challenges set instead of applying your general knowledge.

There will be free food and drinks, both soft and alcoholic, available for attendees throughout the whole event. There will also be great prizes on offer for the winning teams (such as Raspberry Pi Computers and a Hotel Chocolat hamper).

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/427884178037436/

– Week 4, Thursday: Dr. David Alonso: “Cosmology: Open questions and state of art”



Cosmology is one of the branches of physics with the highest potential for fundamental discoveries, due to the wide range of energy and length scales involved in the study of the global history of the Universe, as well as to the wealth of observational data that is currently available. In this talk I will give a brief introduction to cosmology, describe the main open questions we are trying to solve, and provide an overview of the main theoretical and observational tools we will use in the next decade to try and answer them.

Speaker Bio:

David Alonso is a researcher in astrophysics and cosmology at the University of Oxford. His work focuses on trying to extract information about fundamental physics from the distribution of galaxies in the Universe and from the statistics of the temperature fluctuations of the Cosmic Microwave Background.

Facebook event page: 

– Week 6, Wednesday: Professor Stephen Blundell’s class: “How To Cook A Spherical Chicken”



Prof. Blundell will give an intuitive introduction to Fourier series which may be useful for those who are new to them, confused by them, or whose knowledge about them is a bit rusty. In this extracurricular class, he will talk about cooking chicken. In true physics tradition, his chicken* will be completely spherical. He will describe how to solve this problem using the thermal diffusion equation which was introduced by Fourier, who then derived his famous series to describe solutions to this equation. He will also examine the important question: Can Nigella Lawson’s recipes be trusted?

* Vegetarian alternative will also apply.

Facebook event page: 

– Week 7, Wednesday: Dr. Adam Caulton’s class: “Particle vs. Field Ontologies in Quantum Field Theory”



Dr Adam Caulton will present a number of foundational and interpretative issues in quantum field theory. In particular, he will outline two important “pictures” of the quantum field: one according to which the quantum field state is thought of as a superposition of classical field configurations (the “field picture”) and one according to which it is thought of as a superposition of different collections of quantum particles (the “particle picture”). These pictures are in fact equivalent in some context, but not in others; I hope to clarify these contexts. Along the way, Prof. Caulton will touch upon the problem of quantisation more generally and draw some enlightening analogies with the simple harmonic oscillator, familiar from non-relativistic quantum mechanics. The class is intended for anyone with interest in quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. Familiarity with classical and quantum mechanics — but not quantum field theory —will be assumed.

Speaker Bio:

Adam Caulton is an Associate Professor in Philosophy. His research is focused on the philosophy of science, in particular the philosophy of physics, and neighbouring issues in metaphysics, logic and the philosophy of language. He has published a number of papers which reflect his particular interests in quantum mechanics, quantum field theory and the role that a variety of symmetries play in the interpretation of physical theories.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1968693803223728/

– Week 7, Thursday: Dr. Kate Shaw (Sussex, ATLAS): “From Collision to Measurement: Particle Physics with ATLAS experiment”



The ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider studies the fundamental forces and particles of our universe at the tera-electronvolt(TeV) scale. From the initial proton-proton collision we will explore how we make precision measurements of the properties of the Standard Model, and how we are searching for New Physics to explain some of the key problems in our description of the universe.

Speaker Bio:

Dr. Kate Shaw is a lecturer based at the University of Sussex and she also works on the ATLAS experiment, one of the huge detectors that form part of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. She has a longstanding interest in science public engagement and she is the founder of Physics Without Frontiers, a UNESCO-backed organisation. In 2015, she won the European Physical Society Outreach Prize. She strongly supports and participates in initiatives to promote women in physics worldwide.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1966927303393383/

– Week 8, Monday: Xmas Social


Come join us at Wadham for a Christmas social! Expect there to be the usual — free food, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), mulled wine and possibly a reappearance of beer pong!

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/257856511750171/

– Week 8, 29 Nov: Sir Chris Llewelyn Smith: “The Energy Transition: How Can Physicists Help?”



A transition away from fossil fuels is beginning, although there’s a very long way to go. Sir Chris Smith will discuss why this transition is needed, how it is progressing and where it may lead. Physics is playing an important role, in areas ranging from understanding the climate, through developing photovoltaics, to modelling plasmas, and through energy spin-offs (e.g. from the Nobel prize-winning solar neutrino experiment). Physicists are well equipped to provide the systems approach that energy requires, and people with physics degrees are contributing as energy economists and experts in human behaviour, as well as technically.

Speaker Bio:

Professor Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith is a theoretical physicists, who is currently interested in all aspects of energy supply and demand. He was the Director General of CERN (1994-1998) when the LHC was approved and construction started. He then became the Provost and President of University College London, the Chair of the Council of the world fusion energy project ITER, the Director of UK’s fusion programme, and he has been involved in a lot more other advisory boards and committees.

He has recently served as the Director of Energy Research in Oxford University between 2011 and 2017, and the President of the Council of SESAME (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East) between 2008 and 2017.

He has written and spoken widely on science funding, international scientific collaboration and energy issues, and served on many advisory bodies nationally and internationally, including the UK Prime Minister’s Advisory Council on Science and Technology (1989-1992). His contribution to the Standard Model of particle physics and scientific leadership have been recognised by awards and honours worldwide, including the Royal Society’s Gold/Royal Medal in 2015.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/254881391858539/

More Events are archived here