Trinity Term 2017

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Week 1: Advanced LIGO – the New Era of Gravitational Wave Astronomy

Philipp Podsiadlowski on “the formation of massive black-hole binaries – understanding the advanced LIGO detections

“A year ago, the Advanced LIGO (aLIGO) gravitational-wave detector reported the discovery of the first direct detection of gravitational waves confirming Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity in its extreme limit. In this talk I will first discuss the importance of gravitational waves for fundamental physics and the main sources aLIGO is expected to detect. I will then focus on the discoveries over the last year. All sources of these gravitational waves detected so far were caused by the merging of two massive stellar-mass black holes. I will then outline some of the astrophysical channels by which such systems can form and provide an outlook for what can be expected once aLIGO has achieved its design sensitivity.”

Thursday (27/04/17), 20:15

Martin Wood Lecture Theatre

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Week 1: OUPS x OUCS Pizza and Cocktail Night

Ever wonder why those wavefunctions are never normalised, why spacecraft appear to move faster than c, why those cheeky atoms never stay in one place? Well, come to the Physics and Chemistry Societies’ social at St. John’s college and worry no more!

With cocktails each punnier than the last, or the specially themed one, lovingly prepared by the St. John’s barman, enjoy partying in the company of fellow physical scientists.

Alternatively, we will have soft drinks (yay), and pizza to help you momentarily escape exam prep (ofc dietary options are available).

Entry £2 for either societies’ members, £5 for non-members.

Wednesday (28/04/17), 20:00

St John’s College

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Week 3: String Theory, Black Holes and the Quark-Gluon Plasma

This week we welcome Prof. Andrei Starinets, whose Research specialises in string theory and nuclear matter created in accelerators
such as the LHC.

Nuclear matter created in heavy ion collisions at accelerators such as the LHC is known as the quark-gluon plasma. Despite being incredibly hot and dense, it shares a number of properties with quantum liquids, although it is not described by the standard Landau Fermi-liquid theory. Theoretical understanding of the quark-gluon plasma requires non-perturbative tools. One of them, known as gauge-string duality or holography, comes from string theory, and relates spectra of black hole excitations to transport properties of the models of the quark-gluon plasma.

Thursday (11/05/17), 20:15

Martin Wood Lecture Theatre

Water controversies

Week 4: Water Controversies and Neutrons

This week we welcome Prof. Alan Soper FRS who is a leading expert in neutron science and the structure of water.

In spite of a huge amount of knowledge about water substance, a genuine physical understanding of what causes water’s strange properties still largely eludes us. The talk will summarize some of the more prominent claims and counter-claims about the nature of water, and how neutrons, if not resolving them, have at least provided genuine information to inform the debate.
Thursday (18/05/17), 20.15

Martin Wood Lecture Theatre

Hilary Term 2017


Week 1: A Turbulent World (…and What Happens If You Spin It)

Prof Alex Schekochihin will introduce the phenomenon of turbulence and discuss where it happens (everywhere!) and how to theorise about it — this will contain a very informal outline of Kolmogorov’s theory of homogenous, isotropic turbulence. He will then show how these simple ideas can be extended to understand the structure of turbulence in a rotating fluid — the new physical elements being the system’s anisotropy and its ability to support wave propagation. These features turn out to be ubiquitous in natural turbulent systems, not only on Earth but also across the Universe, whose visible contents mostly consist of turbulent plasma.
Thursday (19/01/17), 20:15
Martin Wood Lecture Theatre

Week 1: Extraordinary General Meeting

The Oxford University Physics Society will hold an Extraordinary General Meeting to pass a new constitution with amendments suggested by the university. Please see the document attached for the suggested constitution. The meeting’s agenda will exclusively cover the voting on the new constitution.
Thursday (19/01/17) after the talk (9:30 pm)
Martin Wood Lecture Theatre, Physics Department


Week 4: Annual General Meeting (members only)

Our much-awaited Annual General Meeting is coming up. This may be the most important event in the yearly Physsoc calender as a new committee will be elected and now is YOUR chance to get involved! Whether it’s as President or as Media Officer, the continuation of OUPS requires an enthusiastic team like ourselves.
Being a member of the Physsoc committee is great fun, not too time-consuming (even as President, it doesn’t take up more than ~6-7 hours a week), and really rewarding. If that isn’t enough reason it’s also a great thing to put on your CV and it’s a fantastic opportunity to meet academics and other students in the department. You never know when that contact you made at an event will come in useful! If you’re considering running for a position − any society member can run for any position − don’t hesitate to get in touch with the current holder of that position. Please contact us by Thursday of third week if you plan to run for president, treasurer or secretary.
When: Thursday 9th February 2017 (Week 4), 8pm
Where: Martin Wood Lecture Theatre


Week 5: Black Tie Dinner

This Hilary term the OUPS Black Tie Dinner will strike back, with a sequel to last year’s success. Unfortunately tickets have now sold out.
Click here for photos of the event.
When: 16th February 2017, 19:05
Where: Hertford College


Week 6: “Searching for New Physics with Active Galactic Nuclei” by Professor Joseph Conlon

Abstract: “One of the principal questions in particle physics is what lies behind the Standard Model. New particles ought to be present to explain the puzzles of the Standard Model and to account for phenomena such as dark matter. Extreme astrophysical environment provide a laboratory to look for new physics, and I describe the use of X-ray spectra of active galactic nuclei in searching for either axion-like particles or dark matter.”
Prof Joe Conlon is Professor of Theoretical Physics at Oxford and the author of the popular book “Why String Theory?”.
When: Thursday 23rd February 2017 (Week 6), 8:15pm
Where: Martin Wood Lecture Theatre


Week 7: Flash Talks

Flash Talks, one of our most popular events, are returning in 7th week of Hilary Term. If you are interested in presenting current research that you have contributed to, would like to present a mathematical puzzle, are keen on talking about the philosophy of physics, want to share your enthusiasm for a particular field of physics or have any other ideas for a talk, get in touch with the committee (
When: Thursday of 7th week (2nd March), 8:15 pm
Where: Martin Wood Lecture Theatre


Week 8: “Nanotechnology , Physics, and Biology: the converging sciences and technologies that will shape the future of Medicine” by Dr Sonia Contera

Physics labs created the first tools to see and manipulate atoms and matter at the nm-scale. Physicists have taken nanotechnology tools to biological research allowing them to interrogate molecules and cells in a quantitative way and to make mathematical models of biological function. The physical scientists approach to biology is leading to new techniques and  paradigms for treatment and diagnosis, which address disease and health in a physical framework. This activity is slowly eroding the boundaries between material sciences and biology and is leading to a new generation of biomimetic  and biohybrid materials that will have an impact way beyond medicine in the future.
When: Thursday of 8th week (9nd March), 8:15 pm
Where: Martin Wood Lecture Theatre

Michaelmas Term 2016

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Week 1: Chris Linott, ‘I want to believe: An astronomer’s view of aliens’

Astronomers have discovered that planets are incredibly common; there are more than 17 billion Earth-like worlds in our Galaxy alone. Yet the skies are still annoyingly free of UFOs. Oxford astronomer Chris Lintott and star of BBC Sky at Night discusses this, and will present the latest research on the most unusual star in the galaxy.

Thursday 8:15 pm

Martin Wood Lecture Theatre


Week 4: OUPS Halloween Social

There are pumpkins on sale in Tesco and that can only mean one thing; its almost time for the spookiest social event in any physicist’s calendar, our much loved Halloween social. This year we’ve booked Christchurch’s JCR for the night. Entry will be £3 and there will be cocktails, snacks and soft drinks all night. Fancy dress is always appreciated, we’ll even throw in a prize for the scariest costume.

Wednesday 8:00pm

Christchurch’s JCR


Week 4: Steve Cowley ‘Explosive Stability and Fusion’

Fusion remains one of the truly sustainable options for future energy supply. I will describe recent progress and the prospects for fusion ignition at ITER in the 2020s. To make fusion reactors efficient we must operate at the highest possible plasma pressures. Unfortunately high pressure triggers explosive instabilities that abruptly terminate the plasma. This is a serious issue for fusion plasmas — and therefore for ITER. I will describe the physics of these instabilities and their tendency to cause rapid loss of plasma. Stabilising these motions could lead to smaller more efficient fusion devices.

Thursday 8:30 pm

Martin Wood Lecture Theatre


Week 5: Sciences Winter Ball

Unfortunately, Physics Society tickets have sold out.


Town Hall

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Week 6: Giles Harrison (University of Reading): ‘Atmospheric science measurements from balloons’

About 3000 weather balloons are launched around the world every day to obtain data for weather forecasting models. They also provide an ideal platform for a range of other atmospheric science measurements but this opportunity is underexploited. This talk will discuss the range of new scientific measurements made through the experimental work underway at Reading, from measuring cosmic rays to volcanic ash and cloud electricity to turbulence.

Thursday 8:15 pm

Martin Wood Lecture Theatre

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Week 7: Laure Zanna: ‘Oceans in a warming climate’

The oceans are a key component of the climate system. The global ocean has stored about 30% of the carbon emitted from human activities and 90% of the accumulated excess heat as a result of these emissions. Therefore the oceans can have a cooling effect on the atmosphere. In this talk, Dr Laure Zanna will discuss the thermodynamical and dynamical processes governing the physics of the oceans, from small-scale turbulence to large-scale transport. The focus will be on the role of fundamental ocean processes on climate and the challenges of modelling and predicting future climate change.

Thursday 8:30 pm

Martin Wood Lecture Theatre

Week 8: Jane Street’s Estimathon

More info and link to sign up  in the weekly email.



Week 8: Andreas Freise (University of Birmingham): ‘Shining a Light on Black Holes’

When black holes collide, their enormous gravitational forces create ripples in the fabric of space and time. Although Einstein predicted the existence of these gravitational waves, he was certain that they could never be detected.
Advances in technology, from lasers to modern quantum optics, have fundamentally changed the way we design precision instruments. Measuring a gravitational wave is now a possibility, while remaining one of the greatest challenges in experimental physics. Over several decades a new type of laser interferometer has been developed, and several kilometre-long gravitational-wave detectors have been constructed around the world. And now, almost exactly a hundred years after Einstein’s predictions, the two LIGO detectors have achieved the first detection of a gravitational wave, exceeding Einstein’s imagination. Professor Andreas Freise will talk about an extraordinary journey in experimental physics and the invention of new laser instruments to look into the skies and listen for the echoes of black holes and dying stars.

Thursday 8:30 pm

Martin Wood Lecture Theatre

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