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This is the basic question that drives the natural science of physics. Through the theoretical and experimental study of energy (motion, light, gravity...) and matter (from sub-atomic particles to galaxies)—and how they interact with each other, physicists seek to formulate scientific laws and test physical phenomena.
Advances in research fields such as theoretical physics, condensed-matter physics, atomic, molecular, and optical physics, cosmology, and biophysics often lead to revolutions in the way we understand the Universe, as well as in technology and innovation.
Physicists proved the Big Bang theory by harnessing the technologies that could show how energy and matter interacted billions of years ago. Likewise, a new understanding of electromagnetism led innovators to develop modern-day products such as television, computers and cell phones. Advances in medicine have been made possible by machines such as CAT scans and MRIs, the technology for which grew out of physics laboratories. And in future, we look to nanoscientists who have learned to fabricate objects by joining molecule to molecule. Could a single carbon nanotube radio that fits inside the ear canal be in our future?
Suffice it to say, physics informs not simply the scientific past and present but also the scientific and technological future! Below is a list of the stories on this site relating to physics.
Carlo Sequin tells us about the connections between art, science, and mathematics, and discusses some of his sculptures.
Jeremy Thorner tells us about the amazing properties of the humble yeast.
Adrian Lee talks about the cosmic microwave background at Cal Day, UC Berkeley's annual open house.
Raphael Bousso talks about black holes at Cal Day, UC Berkeley's annual open house.
On August 18, our talk was given by Dr. Anton Tremsin, and was entitled "Can one see a flower through a granite wall? Amazing capabilities of neutron imaging".
The detection technology which we developed for NASA astrophysical missions at UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory has been successfully extended to such diverse areas as synchrotron instrumentation, biomedical imaging, ground-based astronomy and neutron microtomography. In this talk I will briefly describe some instrumentation we built for NASA satellites, in particular for the last Hubble repair mission, and how the same technology enables novel non-destructive testing methods utilizing neutrons. These reveal processes happening inside and behind thick objects. The fact that neutrons interact with the nucleus, as opposed to electrons in the case of x-rays, leads to a very different contrast mechanism. As a result, most organic objects are quite opaque and many metals can be easily penetrated. That allows seeing a drop of oil or gasoline inside a real aluminum-block car engine, a flower behind a granite wall, water flow inside metal pipes, strain in materials, etc. The latter can be very helpful for the engineering studies of crack formation in metals, preventing the fatigue of structures used in bridges and buildings. Also, the interaction of neutron spin with magnetic fields allows high resolution measurements of magnetic fields inside and around thick objects. A number of proof-of-principle experiments performed at continuous and pulsed neutron sources will be discussed, as will possible applications.
Cal physicists study the most fundamental questions in science. Read on to learn about these scientists' research!
On January 21, our talk was given by Dr. Beate Heinemann, and was entitled "The Quest for the Higgs Boson at the Large Hadron Collider".
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was built in the past decade near Geneva at the border of Switzerland and France, and is now operating since last year at the world's highest energy. A primary objective of the LHC is to either discover or dispute the so-called Higgs boson. The Higgs boson was first hypothesized nearly 50 years ago in 1964 in order to find a mechanism by which all particles that make up the matter in our Universe acquire mass. Just in the last year the LHC has made significant progress in its search for the Higgs boson. Particularly at the end of 2011 initial search results were observed that show tantalizing hints that a discovery might be very near which received a broad echo within the scientific community and the popular press. In my lecture will describe the LHC and its experiments, the relevance of the Higgs boson and the current state of the experimental searches.
On December 17, our talk was given by Prof. Bernard Sadoulet, and was entitled "Shedding Light on the Dark Side of the Universe".
The last decade of cosmological observations tells us that 95% of the energy density in the universe is dark: the combination of about 25% of dark matter, whose nature is unknown and 70% of an even more mysterious dark energy. Ordinary matter only represents 5% of the energy budget. I will review attempts to shed light on this dark side of the universe, in particular current attempts to detect Weakly Interactive Massive Particles, which could make the dark matter.
The next Science@Cal Lecture will be given at 11 AM on October 15th in Genetics and Plant Biology, Room 100. See the Science@Cal Lectures page for details.