Events Archive

2017-18 academic year

Trinity Term 2018

Week 1
Quantum materials public lecture 2018

18:00 on 26 April, Martin Wood lecture theatre

Co-hosted by the Oxford Department of Physics and the Oxford Physics Society, the lecture will be followed by a drinks reception in the Martin Wood Lecture Theatre Foyer.

Join us for an exploration of quantum materials – what they are,

what they can do, and why they are so profoundly interesting!

Solid matter contains unimaginably large numbers of electrons which determine many of the material’s properties. Although lots of materials can be described by treating these electrons as independent, research has uncovered an increasing number of ‘quantum materials’ that display non-trivial and often spectacular phenomena, resulting from many electrons acting in unison. In this lecture, Professor Andrew Boothroyd will introduce the field of quantum materials. draw upon recent work in Oxford, and describe how modern experimental techniques are making it possible to unpick complex ordered phases and identify exotic emergent particles.

Free for everyone.

Registration for drink reception is strongly recommended via this link.

Welcome back social

24 April at 20:00-23:00, Wadham College

Welcome back, hope you all had an eventful vac, and are ready to face Trinity. Let’s kick things off with a social with free drinks and snacks, and whine about the upcoming exams together.

Tuesday of week 1

8-11 pm

At Wadham college old refectory

Free for members


£5 for new membership & free entry

or just £2 for entry

2016-17 academic year

Trinity Term 2017

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


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


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


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

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


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


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 Estimation

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

2015-2016 academic year

Trinity Term 2016

Week 1: How to be a Physicist

“How do you choose a PhD and is it wise to stay in Oxford? How does the work atmosphere in academia or national laboratories compare to the work atmosphere in industry? Is being a physicist a job or a lifestyle?”

This legendary stuff only comes about every two years. We’re really privileged to have a great panel of physicists from a host of different backgrounds and with different experiences share their outlook on a career in physics academia. Submit questions here.

We’re very excited to introduce our panel for the event:

Steve Simon is a tutor at Somerville, and professor of theoretical physics. His current research is on ’emergent phenomena in quantum condensed matter physics’. Before coming to Oxford, Steve was a research director at Bell Laboratories.

John Wheater is head of the physics department, and professor of theoretical physics. His current research interest is quantum gravity. John joined the academic staff at Oxford 30 years ago, and won the 1993 Maxwell Medal, awarded by the IOP for outstanding contributions to theoretical physics.

Androula Alekou is a postdoctoral research assistant with the particle physics department. She’s currently working on an upgrade of the Diamond Light Source. Before coming to Oxford, Androula worked at CERN on development of a collimation system for the proton synchrotron.

Fran Kirschner is a DPhil student with Oxford’s condensed matter department, supervised by Prof. Stephen Blundell. While she was an undergraduate at Mansfield college, Fran was head of OUPS back in 2013-14!

Week 2: Michael Berry

Michael Berry is fascinated by the relations between physical theories – between classical and quantum, ray and wave optics a whole host of phenomena lie – from emergent classicality and decoherence to extreme coherence of waves. A striking feature of physics is the extent to which old theories are embedded in newer, more general ones. But these limits tend to be singular, and hence flirt with our idea of infinity. Michael is best known for his seminal work on the Berry phase in quantum mechanics and will be talking on how theories of light exhibit the above features – here’s the abstract:

“Optical phenomena visible to everyone have been central to the development of, and abundantly illustrate, important concepts in science and mathematics. The phenomena considered include rainbows, sparkling reflections on water, mirages, green flashes, earthlight on the moon, glories, daylight, crystals, and the squint moon. The concepts include refraction, caustics (focal singularities of ray optics), wave interference,numerical experiments, mathematical asymptotics, dispersion, complex angular momentum (Regge poles), polarization singularities, Hamilton’s conical intersections of eigenvalues (‘Dirac points’), geometric phases, and visual illusions.”

Hey its a malestrom of physics, but whoever would have doubted that the most striking feature of our primitive way of saying when two things are similar, colour, would not have revelaed rich and beautiful physics?

Week 3: Practical Advice for Applying to Physics PhD’s by Dan Martin, OUPS President 2014/15

Dan Martin will be sharing his experiences, thoughts and advice on the process of applying for a PhD. Many of you have probably mused about it at some point, and whether your dead set or wavering, its good to have an idea of what applying involves. Here’s a description of what he’ll say from the man himself:

“It pays to be thoughtful and organised with applying for PhD’s, as mistakes can be made. It’s still rather early in the process, but I hope to pass on some of the tricks and lessons I have figured out whilst applying this past year. Primarily aimed at those graduating in 2017.”

Week 4: Simon Hooker

Could we fit an accelerator of comparable strength into a lab the size of the Clarendon? Our modern accelerators are fundamentally based on the theory of Electromagnetism. A laser generates electric fields much more intense than those we use at the LHC, and so can be used to construct more powerful accelerators. Simon will be talking to us about the potential of this approach and the problems it faces. Here’s the abstract:

“How can we accelerate particles with lasers – and could this approach ever be used to fit an LHC-like collider into the Clarendon Lab?

In a laser plasma accelerator particles are accelerated by the electric fields developed within the plasma wave driven by an intense laser pulse. These fields are more than a thousand times higher than those produced by a conventional radio-frequency accelerator, allowing the accelerator to be shrunk by the same factor. 

In this talk I will describe how laser-plasma accelerators work, give an overview of recent developments, and describe some demonstrations of potential applications. I will also discuss some of the challenges which must be met before laser-plasma accelerators find real-world applications.”

Hilary Term 2017

WEEK 1: THURSDAY 21st JANUARY – Jocelyn Bell Burnell:  ‘What Pulsars do to (and for) Physics’
8:15 pm, Martin Wood Lecture Theatre

ABSTRACT: ‘Pulsars (pulsating radio sources) have large magnetic fields, large electric fields, density comparable to the nucleus of the atom and relativistic speeds, all at the same time!

In this talk I will discuss some extremely condensed matter and how pulsars test Einstein’s General Relativity.’

Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, DBE, FRS, PRSE, FRAS is an leading astrophysicist, best known for discovering the first pulsars. She is currently president of The Royal Society of Edinburgh, and has been president of the Royal Astronomical Society and president of the Institute of Physics. She has recieved numerous awards for her work, including the Royal Medal of the Royal Society, and her omission from the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics is still a controversial point.


WEEK 2: THURSDAY 28TH JANUARY – Julia Yeomans: ‘Nature’s Engines: Powering Life’
8:15 pm, Martin Wood Lecture Theatre

ABSTRACT: ‘Active materials, such as microorganisms, cells and molecular motors, continuously transform chemical to mechanical energy. In the past few years there has been a surge of interest in understanding motion at a microscopic level, and the properties of active matter. This is made possible by recent advances in imaging, computational power and nanotechnology, and is driven by the aim of designing biomimetic micro- and nano-machines. On a more fundamental level, active matter is meant to exist out of equilibrium, and hence provides a testing ground for the theories of complexity and non-equilibrium statistical physics.’

Professor Julia Yeomans, FRS, FInstP is a theoretical physicist working on some really interesting problems in soft condensed matter and biological physics. Particularly, bacterial swimmers, superhydrophobic surfaces, liquid crystal colloids, and active systems. But more than that, she is one of the undergrad community’s favourite lecturers! So I doubt I need to do much pushing to convince you to come and hear this great speaker tell us about some of her own, fascinating, research.


WEEK 3: THURSDAY 4TH FEBRUARY –  Neil Bowles : ‘Oxford Physics – Exploring the Moon and asteroids’

Abstract: “In September 2016 NASA will launch the OSRIS-REx mission to potentially hazardous near Earth asteroid Bennu with aim of returning a pristine sample of its surface to Earth in 2022.  Asteroid Bennu is believed to be a very primitive object and analysis of the returned sample will hopefully provide detailed information on the conditions that were present early in the Solar System’s formation, including how volatile and organic material were distributed and potentially delivered to Earth.  Oxford Physics has been involved in the mission for the last 5 years, helping with laboratory measurements to help pick sample sites and understand the composition of Benn.  This will then help us to understand how the returned sample fits into the Bennu as whole and how it compares to other, similar objects we observe throughout the Solar System. All this builds on studies of the Earth’s Moon that we have been involved with through NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

In this talk I will discuss these missions to the Moon and Bennu, give details of the science we are trying to achieve and explain how a bunch of Oxford atmospheric physicists got interested in space rocks in the first place!”


7:00 pm, Hertford College

This Hilary term we are hosting our first ever black tie dinner (since records began) – we are hiring out Hertford College Hall for the night, and providing you with a 3 course meal, wine, and entertainment. Click here for photos. 


Week 5: THURSDAY 18th FEBRUARY – We’ll be hosting FLASH TALKS!

Flash Talks, one of our most popular events, has returned! We have four speakers lined up for you:

Ching Chong – Introduction to Matrix Lie Groups – or, where do commutators come from?Guillermo Valle – Self Assembly

Nora Martin – Self organised criticality in traffic models

Carlo Scala – Beyond Quantum Theory: A tale of information and thermodynamics



This legendary stuff only comes about every two years. We’re really privildged to have a great panel of physicists from a host of different backgrounds and with different experiences share their outlook on a career in physics academia.



US election? EU referendum? Why is everyone talking about these with something so much more important coming up – Oxford University Physics Society’s Elections and Annual General Meeting!

This is the most important event of the year for the society, and we’re asking anyone who has enjoyed what we’ve done this year to come along and hear from those running, and vote on the new committee, to make sure OUPS keeps going strong next year. I also encourage anyone tempted to run for committee to go for it! It’s great fun – you’ll meet loads of new people from different years and even subjects, and get to go to dinner with the speakers, which is amazing. It’s never too stressful, always rewarding, and will look great on your CV!
The positions up for grabs are:
• President –
• Treasurer –
• Secretrary –
• Social Secretary –
• Website Officer –
• Publicity Rep –
• Extra-Curricular Studies Rep –
• Media Officer –
If you are thinking of running, feel free to get in contact with the committee as listed above, or for general enquiries.
WHEN? 8:30PM Friday 26th February (6th Week)
WHERE? Martin Wood, Clarendon Building, University of Oxford Physics
There will be plenty of refreshments on offer as always

WEEK 7: A top secret suprise event


RESCHEDULED: JANE STREET HACKATHON! The ever friendly and exciting Jane Street will be hosting a Hackathon on the 30th Janruary! Jane Street will give you and your team access to some of their cloud computing and help you build your own financial instrument! There will be unlimited food of a high quality throughout the day, and it is one of the most stimulating and fun competitions of the year. Usually highly oversubscribed so sign up quickly at http ://goo . gl/forms/sMxQcw8fgA.

Michaelmas Term 2015

Monday week 1: G&D’s start of the year social

Join us at G&D’s for a friendly start to the year, all members will get a free voucher for ice cream! We will post a sign up form in the next email, sign-up is essential.

Thursday week 1: John Ellis FRS
“What Lies Beyond the Standard Model?”
8:15 pm, Lindemann Lecture Theatre

One of the most influential European physicists of modern theoretical physics.  A keen advocate of supersymmetric models, and head of CERN’s theory division for six years, Ellis was also author of the paper which laid out the best way for producing and detecting the Higgs, the properties of which he is actively involved in investigating. https://en . wikipedia . org/wiki/Penguin_diagram.

Abstract: “The discovery of the Higgs boson at the LHC opens a new window on physics beyond the Standard Model, which is required to understand the dark matter in the Universe, the origin of matter itself and many other open questions. What might this new physics be, and how can we find it?”


Thursday week 2: Samuel Henry
“The Muon g-2 Experiment”
8:15 pm, Martin Wood Lecture Theatre

Samuel sees his work as relating to two fundamental questions – “What is the universe made of?” and “What is the origin of the matter-antimatter asymmetry?”. He thus works on the dark matter search using high precision instruments, and measurements of the electron dipole moment of the neutrino. He will give a talk on the muon g2 experiment, of which more can be found at http ://www . theguardian . com/science/life-and-physics/2013/jun/25/brookhaven-muon-barge-truck-fermilab
Abstract: “The anomalous magnetic dipole moment of the muon is a powerful probe for New Physics as it can be both measured and calculated to sub-parts-per-million accuracy. The observed discrepancy between theory and experiment in the last few decimal places could be a sign of as yet undiscovered particles and interactions beyond the Standard Model of Particle Physics.

The Fermilab Muon g-2 experiment will take a more precise measurement, using the old 14m diameter magnet shipped across the US from New York to Illinois, a higher flux beam of muons and an upgraded suite of instruments. This type of precision measurement particle physics complements the collider experiments running at CERN.”


Monday week 3: Extracurricular Class on “Infinite Random Labyrinths and Renormalisation”


Wednesday week 3: Halloween Social, 20:30 at Magdalen College

We will be providing plenty of drinks and snacks for your entertainment.

Sign up is essential – at – be quick it’s filling up fast!


Monday week 4: Extracurricular Class on “New Frontiers in Computing”


Thursday week 4: David Lucas

We are at an enormously exciting time. We have now for the first time, to the required precision, demonstrated the validity of the ‘quantum logic’ operations necessary to build a quantum computer, right here in Oxford! We are very pleased that the head of the lab that obtained these results is coming to speak to us!


I will give an introduction to the field of quantum computing, using the ideas of cryptography as an example application. I will review briefly possible methods of building quantum computers, the present state-of-the-art and technological challenges – a strong bias towards my own field (ion traps) will become evident!


Monday week 5: Extracurricular Class on “Working with Active Circuits”


Thursday week 5: Julian Barbour and David Sloan

Abstract: David and Julian will talk about the origin of the arrows of time and the possibility that there is another universe ‘on the other side of the Big Bang’ in which the experienced direction of time is opposite to what we experience. Julian will begin with a model based on the Newtonian N-body problem that makes the possibility plausible and relatively easy to understand while David will talk about the conditions under which passage ‘through the Big Bang’ may be possible in accordance with General Relativity.

Wednesday week 6: Extracurricular Class on “Quantum Information”


Thursday week 7: Michael Green FRS

One of the most prominent string theorists today. The Green-Schwarzman anomaly cancellation mechanism, solved a conundrum in type I string theory, realising that an anomaly in the theory, a lack of symmetry in the way in which infinities are removed, cancels in the appropriate number of dimensions. This is widely acknowledged to have initiated the first revolution in string theory. Green has also pioneered the work that predicted the now ubiquitous D-branes and instantons. In the words of the Royal Society: “These definitive papers initiated the explosive growth of superstring theory, now one of the most active and exciting areas of fundamental theoretical physics”

Abstract: ‘Fascinating physical problems arise on vastly different distance scales, ranging from the nature of the fundamental particles, properties of condensed matter, to features of the whole Universe. The talk will present a survey of approaches to understanding such disparate phenomena based on ideas emerging from String Theory, which has the potential for providing a theoretical link between areas of physics that otherwise appear to be only remotely connected.’

Trinity Term 2015

Thursday 1st week – Dr Patricia Fara

Newton & Newtonianism

There is only one thing that everybody knows about Isaac Newton: that he watched an apple fall from a tree – or at least, he said that he did. As if he were a secular saint, his apple has become an iconic attribute, a symbol both of scientific breakthrough and of individual genius.   By making gravity follow a simple mathematical relationship – the inverse square law – Newton emphasised that natural phenomena can, at least in principle, be explained quantitatively, a fundamental shift in approach that was crucial for the foundation of modern science. His importance may seem obvious now, but during the eighteenth century, his supporters had to persuade the world not only that he was right, but also that scientific knowledge was valuable. Newton’s reputation has continually altered over the centuries, reflecting shifts in how science and its practitioners are perceived – and today’s Newtonianism is very different from the God-driven cosmos that he envisaged.


Thursday 2nd week – Prof Harvey R. Brown

Confusions on the road to general relativity

Several key principles dominated Einstein’s thinking in the decade-long development of the general theory of relativity. These included the principle of equivalence, the principle of general covariance and Mach’s principle concerning the origin of inertia. These principles were not entirely independent in Einstein’s mind and none survived entirely intact once Einstein reached the promised land. About five years after discovering his field equations, Einstein argued that vindication of the principle of action-reaction was a key feature of his theory of gravity; this late development had much to do with the difficulties Einstein confronted in trying to implement Mach’s principle.


Thursday 3rd week – Prof Andre Lukas

Particle Physics from String Theory

I review the main structural features of particle physics – as encoded in the standard model – and explain why they are pointing to a more fundamental, underlying theory. String theory is a candidate for such a fundamental theory and I discuss some of its many remarkable properties. In particular, I outline how the main features of our low-energy world may emerge from string theory and which problems remain to be solved in this context.


Thursday 4th week – Ranga Yogeshwar

Next exit future – How innovation changes our society

Speaker profile: Ranga Yogeshwar is best known as the presenter of several successful science programmes on the German television. His long-running weekly magazine Quarks & Co is a vital part of the public-broadcasting television serving the purpose of knowledge transfer. Besides his work as science journalist, physicist and author, he also supports various charities in Germany as well as aid schemes in Asia. Yogeshwar has received multiple awards for his achievements in science, journalism and social commitments, amongst others the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.


Thursday 8th week – Science Party

Post-Prelim Party with other scientific societies at Plush


Free entry for all PhysSoc members (also Chem, Bio, Eng, Earth Sci, and Mat Socs), £3 on the door for everyone else.

Hilary Term 2015

Thursday 2nd week – PuzzleDrive

In teams of up to three, compete in entertaining physics questions for a £200 prize. Be on the lookout for teammates, but you can turn up alone too. Only your best categories score points, so non-physicists will enjoy the lighter trivia.


Thursday 3rd week – Dr Alexy Karenowska

A peculiar species of attraction: spin waves, sorcery, and the science of the unseeable.

Spin waves are microwave-frequency magnetic excitations which can propagate in certain magnetically ordered solids. Experiments with spin-wave systems not only give us insight into the nuts and bolts of magnetic physics, but potentially open doors to new classical and quantum information technologies.
In 2016, experimental spin-wave dynamics will celebrate its seventieth birthday. Though seven decades is not an insignificant period of time, it is nonetheless a very short one in comparison with the age of the general field of magnetism — among the oldest identifiable branches of natural philosophy. This talk will introduce the state-of-the-art in spin-wave physics against the background of a sideways look at the seminal role played by the phenomenon of magnetism in shaping our fundamental understanding of what science is.


Thursday 4th week – Professor Basil Hiley

Where does Schrödinger equation come from? The need for a non-commutative geometry.

“Nowhere”  explains Feynman, but unhelpfully adds, “from Schrödinger’s brain”.  Even Schrödinger admitted that a step in the ‘deduction’ of his equation was ‘not unambiguous’! An interesting use of the double negative.  Nevertheless the equation and its wave function is remarkably successful at the level of the non-relativistic spinless particle.  However it comes at a cost as it seems so different from the traditional approach, abandoning the notion of a physical material process evolving in a geometric background.  As a result it produces a plethora of different interpretations, some sublime, others, quite frankly, bizarre.  I want to re-examine the background from which the Schrödinger picture emerges, a background which was effectively abandoned because, in the twenties, the mathematics of a non-commutative geometry was too novel and its physical meaning very unclear.  Since that time, there has been considerable progress in understanding these mathematical structures and I will present an overview of these new advances, showing that the present approach is a fragment of a deeper structure which, when developed, allows new insights into the nature of quantum phenomena and, indeed, reality.  Although these advances depend heavily on the mathematics, I will try to convey the intuitions lying behind these ideas.


Thursday 5th week – Dr John Wheater

What is quantum gravity?

Well, nobody knows for sure after well over half a century of effort. I will explain why we need to know and some of the history. Then I will describe in an non-technical way some of the features it should have and explain qualitatively one way of thinking

about it which does not require tensors and other apparatus of higher mathematics.


Thursday 6th week – Flash Talks

Thursday 7th week – PhysSoc Elections


Thursday 8th week – Professor Graham Ross

Have we found the origin of mass?

 The discovery of the Higgs boson after nearly 50 years may, at last, provide the missing ingredient of the Standard Model, the theory of the strong, weak and electromagnetic interactions. I will review the latest evidence for this coming from the Large Hadron Collider and discuss whether the Higgs does finally provide an answer to the question “What is the origin of mass?”.

Michaelmas Term 2014

Thursday 2nd Week − Professor Agnieszka Zalewska

CERN: Highlights of research, technology and education

Agnieszka Zalewska is a Polish physicist, specializing in experimental particle physics. Her research has been on wide spectrum of subjects, in hadron physics, e+e- interactions, neutrino and dark matter physics as well as pioneering work on silicon vertex and tracking detectors with VLSI electronics at CERN. She has been responsible for several projects in particle physics in Poland and internationally. Since January 2013 she has been the President of CERN Council.

Thursday 3rd week – Halloween’s Eve Social

If you thought Halloween was super scary, wait until you see HALLOWEEN’S EVE! Relax with other physics enthusiasts and enjoy a round of drinks at our 3rd week social. We’ll be setting up shop in the Oscar Wilde Room at Magdalen College, (formerly the residence of, yes, THAT Oscar Wilde), from 8:15pm.

Free for members, £4 for non members

Thursday 4th week – Atomic Pizza Night

Looking to meet some new people over dinner? How about PhysSoc’s annual night at Atomic Pizza? This would also be a great opportunity to try one of Oxford’s more unique restaurants, if you haven’t yet.

Note that Atomic Pizza is a ways down Cowley Road (Google Map), so if you live in the city centre a bike may be helpful.

Date: Thursday 4th Week

Time: 20:30

Location: Atomic Pizza, Cowley Road

Thursday 5th Week − Dr Jonathon Gair

Gravitational wave astronomy – ‘A new window on the universe’

The existence of gravitational waves — small fluctuations in gravitational fields that propagate at the speed of light — was shown to be an inevitable consequence of general relativity more than a century ago, but there have not yet been any direct detections of these waves by man-made detectors. This will all change spectacularly in the next decade. I will describe the current status of and prospects for current and planned gravitational wave detection experiments, I will discuss the likely sources of gravitational waves for these instruments and outline some of the potential scientific applications of these observations to astrophysics, cosmology and fundamental physics.

Thursday 7th Week − Professor Stephen Blundell

Emergence in physics: Life, the Universe and the nature of reality

“The more the elementary particle physicists tell us about the nature of the fundamental laws, the less relevance they seem to have to the very real problems of the rest of sciences, much less to those of society.”  (P. W. Anderson).

Where does the disconnect come between the cold, hard laws of elementary particles and the richness and beauty of the world we see around us?  If we could obtain a theory of everything, would it be of any use?  An answer to these questions may lie in the phenomenon of “emergence”.  In this talk we will look at how laws “emerge” from complexity, how the term “emergence” is understood (and/or misunderstood) by physicists and by philosophers, and consider what implications this might have for our understanding of the nature of reality.  All perfect fodder for a Thursday evening of week 7.

Thursday 8th Week  − Dr Oscar Dahlsten

The Uncertainty Principle from the Quantum Information perspective

The uncertainty principle remains one of the greatest conceptual mysteries of modern science. I will discuss what it is, what its consequences are, and whether we may ever have a theory without it. More specifically I will discuss the principle’s impact on how much data we can cram into a quantum system, on entanglement, non-locality, and on the entropy increase of the second law of thermodynamics. I will argue that the uncertainty principle actually has an emancipating effect in allowing quantum systems to evolve in non-classical ways in interferometers. I will then give some thoughts on whether we can hope to ever get a theory succeeding quantum theory without the uncertainty principle, including some simple toy theories in that direction.

Michaelmas 2013

Thursday 1st Week – Freshers’ Social

Our biggest social event of the year – not to be missed!

Location: St Peters College

Time: 20:00

Thursday 2nd Week – Professor Stephen Blundell

One of our favourite speakers and one of Oxford’s finest professors, talking about his work with muons. He even has his own Wikipedia page.

Thursday 3rd Week – Mafia Social

Never heard of Mafia? Check it out here.

Thursday 4th Week – Talk – Axel Kuhn

Another one of Oxford’s best, talking about the quantum nature of light – cool!

Thursday 5th Week – Talk – James Binney

Oxford Astrophysicist – as featured on iTunes! Check out his Wiki.

Thursday 6th Week – Oxmas Social with the Invariants

Join us in an early celebration of Oxmas with our favourite sister society.

Thursday 7th Week – Talk – Sir Michael Berry

Ig Nobel prizewinner and famous face in the Physics world – if you’re a frog, stay away from this talk! Check out his Wiki.

Thursday 8th Week – AI panel discussion

A look into the exciting world of artificial intelligence.

Hilary 2014

Thursday 1st Week – Dr Eric Drexler

Remaking the 21st Century

Can industry as we know it be made obsolete? If so, then the problems of the 21st century, including climate disruption, are not as they seem. Physical principles indicate the feasibility of developing a high-throughput atomically precise manufacturing technology that operates at low cost, with common materials, and with an extraordinary scope of application. The prospective technology resembles 3D printing, but capable of producing, for example, photovoltaics, jet engines, and nanoscale digital electronics. Rapid progress in atomically precise fabrication, primarily in the molecular sciences, points the way to an incremental development path that leads to a genuinely revolutionary set of capabilities. This prospect calls for a multifaceted shift in today’s research agenda.

Eric Drexler is a pioneering nanotechnology researcher and author. In his work he describes the implementation and applications of advanced nanotechnologies, and their potential impact on global problems.

Thursday 2nd Week – Dr Stephen Blundell

One of our favourite speakers and one of Oxford’s finest professors, talking about his work with muons. He even has his own Wikipedia page.

Thursday 3rd Week – Mafia Social

Never heard of Mafia? Check it out here.

Thursday 4th Week – Physicists go to the restaurant!

Join us for an evening of fine food, excellent company and of course a lot of physics in one of Oxford’s best restaurants!

Thursday 5th Week – Flashtalks

Talks given by students for students − don’t miss it!

Thursday 6th Week – Pizza and Documentary Night

A whole night of Cosmos and pizza − can it get any better?

Thursday 7th Week – David Marshall

David’s research interests lie in understanding the fluid dynamics of the global ocean circulation and the role of the oceans in climate. Work mainly involves the development of theoretical and computational models to elucidate the fluid dynamics of the global ocean circulation.

Thursday 8th Week – Professor Bob Coeke

Bob Coecke is a theoretical physicist, professor of Quantum Foundations, Logics and Structures at Oxford University and a pioneer of categorical quantum mechanics.

Trinity 2014

Thursday 1st Week – Talk – Dr Joe Conlon

Relativistic dark radiation is one of the best motivated extensions to the Cosmological Standard Model, and there are a number of hints for this dark radiation. String theory extra-dimensional models generically predict the existence of many additional massless particles with extremely weak couplings. These particles (for example axions) could be produced in the early universe to form dark radiation, and today constitute a cosmic axion background.

Signatures of this cosmic axion background could have already been observed through anomalies in the spectrum of X-rays from clusters of galaxies.

Thursday 2nd Week – How to be a Physicist

What’s a PhD like? How do professors become professors? Do I need to be a genius to work in academia? This week, Physsoc are very excited to be holding its very first careers event: How to be a Physicist. There have been plenty of careers fairs showcasing every possible corner of working in industry, but what about staying in academia? We’ve got a panel of physicists spanning a range of sub departments, career stages, and previous job experiences, ready to answer any of your questions and talk about their experiences in both Oxford Physics and other physics departments around the world.

Thursday 3rd Week – AGM

Join us to socialise and elect a new committee for the next academic year!

Thursday 4th Week – Talk – Dr. Suzanne Aigrain

Dr. Aigrain is a lecturer in Astrophysics at the University of Oxford and a fellow of All Souls College. Her research focuses on extra-solar planets and stellar variability.

Michaelmas 2012

Thursday 1st Week – Colin Bruce

“Fusion: 30 Years Away or Tomorrow?”

Thursday 2nd Week – Ivette Fuentes

“Moving Cavities and Detectors for Relativistic Quantum Information”

Thursday 3rd Week – Julian Barbour

“Does Time Exist?”

Thursday 4th Week – Vlatko Vedral

“Quantum Computers: Have Plants Got There First?”

Thursday 5th Week – Stephen Blundell

“The North-South Divide: How Magnetism has Repeatedly Revolutionised the World”

Thursday 6th Week – Chris Hayes

“The LHC and the Higgs Boson”

Thursday 7th Week – Robin Stafford Allen

“Nuclear Fusion Research and the Energy Crisis”

Thursday 8th Week – Mike Towler

Quantum Mechanics (exact title TBC)

Hilary 2013

Thursday 1st Week – Oscar Dahlsten

“Quantum Information”

Thursday 2nd Week – Todd Huffman

“The Higgs Mechanism: How It Works”

Thursday 3rd Week – David Wallace

“The Quantum Measurement Problem and the Many-Worlds Interpretation”

Thursday 4th Week – Talk rearranged to 6th week

Thursday 5th Week – Vlatko Vedral

“Quantum Computers: Have Plants Got There First?”

Thursday 6th Week – Brian Wecht

“String Theory”

Thursday 7th Week – Philip Moriarty

“Physics and Music”

Thursday 8th Week – No talk this week

Trinity 2013

Thursday 1st Week – Steve Simons

“Knots, World Lines, and Quantum Computation”

Thursday 2nd Week – Alan Barr

Dark Matter – exact title TBC

Thursday 3rd Week – TBC

Thursday 4th Week – Alexander Shekochihin

A Turbulent World (And What Happens If You Spin It)

Michaelmas 2011

Tuesday 1st Week – Fresher’s Drinks – 8:15pm
Worcester College – Sainsbury Common Room

The first Physics Society social of term will be held at Worcester College in the Sainsbury Common Room from 8:15pm-10:30ish. Unlimited free drinks (while stocks last), plenty of nibbles, and lots of Physicists, Engineers, Mathematicians and others who share an interest in all things Physics. Come along and chat about life, the universe and everything with a drink one hand and some jaffa cakes in the other – all Physicists love jaffa cakes and that is a scientific FACT!

£8 to become a member on the door, including free entry.
Free for those who have joined this term.
£2 for older members
£4 for non-members

Just turn up at Worcester College Lodge and we’ll point the way

Thursday 1st Week – Sir Chris Llewellyn-Smith
“The Energy Challenge”

You can find a PDF copy of the talk here.

Thursday 2nd Week – Chris Hays
“CERN and the Higgs Boson”

Thursday 3rd Week – Vlatko Vedral
“How much of Physics is just Thermodynamics”

Thursday 4th Week – Stuart Clark
“The Origin of Science”

Thursday 5th Week – Kishan Dholakia
“Optical Trapping Techniques”

Thursday 6th Week – Robert Bond
“Reaction Engines”

Thursday 7th Week – Chris Timpson
“What does Quantum Information tell us about Teleportation”

Thursday 8th Week – Keith Barnham
“The Energy of the Future: Nuclear Power vs Photovoltaics”

Hilary 2012

 Thursday 1st Week – Dr Michael J Forrest (Culham Laboratory)

“Lasers Across the Cherry Orchards: Fusion in the Cold War”

Thursday 2nd Week – Dr Yvette Hancock (University of York)


Thursday 3rd Week – Prof. Stephen Blundell (Oxford)

“Superconductivity: The first 101 Years”

WEDNESDAY 4th Week – Dr Simon Saunders (Oxford)

“What is acceleration?”

Thursday 5th Week – Prof Tim Palmer

“Chaos, Uncertainty and Climate Modelling”

Thursday 6th Week – Colin Bruce (Popular Science Writer)

“Nuclear Fusion”

Thursday 7th Week – Prof David Vines (Oxford)

“Economy as a physical system”