Michaelmas 2016

OUPS news: we are moving to our new website and we now have a youtube channel.

Talks&Socials: Usually Thursday evenings

Thursday week 1: Chris Linott

‘I want to believe: An astronomer’s view of aliens’
8:15 pm, Martin Wood Lecture Theatre

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.

Wednesday Week 4:
OUPS Halloween Social
8:00pm, Christchurch’s JCR

Hey physsoccers, there are pumpiks 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.

Thursday week 4: Steve Cowley
‘Explosive Stability and Fusion’

8:30 pm, Martin Wood Lecture Theatre

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.

Friday week 5: Sciences Winter Ball, Town Hall

Unfortunately, Physics Society tickets have sold out.

Thursday week 6: Giles Harrison (University of Reading)
Atmospheric science measurements from balloons

8:15 pm, Martin Wood Lecture Theatre

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 week 7: Laure Zanna
‘Oceans in a warming climate

8:30 pm, Martin Wood Lecture Theatre

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.

Tuesday week 8:
Jane Street’s 
Estimathon

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

Thursday week 8: Andreas Freise (University of Birmingham)
Shining a Light on Black Holes
8:30 pm, Martin Wood Lecture Theatre

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.

Extracurricular Classes: Usually Friday afternoons

Friday week 2, Lindermann lecture theatre, 4:00 – 6:00 pm
Elementary Group Theory – The Absolute Essentials by Ching Lok Chong

Often times in physics we speak of symmetries and their importance in our conceptual understanding of the physical world, and this has prompted the extensive use of group theory. However, the idea of an abstract group extends far beyond physical applications, and can in fact be argued as one of the simplest structures in algebra. It is because of this generality that many mathematical objects familiar to us can be described as groups.

This class investigates the general structural properties that arise in anything we could call a group, namely subgroups, homomorphisms, and most importantly, the first isomorphism theorem, which (in some sense) is a powerful generalisation on the phenomena encountered in modular arithmetic.

Friday week 4, Lindermann lecture theatre, 4:00 – 6:00 pm
Introduction to Green’s functions by Edmund Woolliams

This lecture explores the basic applications of Green’s functions to solving general linear inhomogeneous ordinary differential equations, and the physical applications. Uses for solving linear inhomogeneous partial differential equations will be touched upon, with Poisson’s equation as an example. It is tailored towards those in second year physics and above, however an affluent first year student should not be discouraged, as the very basics will be brushed over (albeit fast).
Green’s functions are unfortunately an area of mathematics that are given little to no attention on the current undergraduate syllabus, yet they play an important role in many branches of physics. Hopefully this lecture will reduce future confusion with them, and give an interesting insight into how inhomogeneous differential equations can be solved.

Friday week 5, Lindermann lecture theatre, 4:00 – 6:00 pm
A history of thermonuclear fusion – magnetic confinement and inertial confinement by Steven Rose

Thermonuclear fusion powers the Sun, and the creation of controlled thermonuclear fusion on earth for energy generation has been a goal of many scientists and engineers since the 1940s. Two major schemes have been investigated to date. The first involves magnetic confinement, where the hot plasma of deuterium and tritium (the thermonuclear fuel) is held in place by strong magnetic fields. The second is inertial confinement, where the inertia of the plasma confines it for long enough for fusion to take place. Magnetic confinement fusion (MCF) was first discussed in public in 1956 at a famous meeting at Harwell at which the Russian programme was revealed to the West and since that time there has been an open international exchange of information and results. The world’s largest MCF device (called the Joint European Torus) is at the Culham Laboratory just south of Oxford and was the first device to generate (in 1997) about as much energy as it consumed, albeit for a time of the order of seconds. The next generation device called ITER (the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is currently being built at Cadarache in France. Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) was first discussed in public in 1972 in a famous paper published in Nature by John Nuckolls and colleagues at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in the USA. The idea in the Nature paper is to compress and heat a small capsule containing a mixture of deuterium and tritium using high-power lasers. The compressed fuel is at this point in the plasma state and thermonuclear reactions take place until the fuel disassembles. Most recently experiments at the National Ignition Facility, a 2MJ laser at LLNL, have shown (in 2014) energy production that exceeds the thermal energy of the thermonuclear plasma. However ICF is still a long way from demonstrating energy gain – more energy from the thermonuclear reactions than is input from the laser. In this class we will look at the long histories of both MCF and ICF and discuss their future prospects.

Friday week 7, Lindermann lecture theatre, 4:00 – 6:00 pm
Un-magnetised Plasmas – A journey into Hermite Space by Toby Adkins

In this class, we shall first explore some of the basic concepts of kinetic plasma theory, before moving on to look at a 2D phase space model of non-linear plasma turbulence. We will arrive at quite an informative, and interesting result, while learning how to handle non-linear systems and scalings. It is recommended that students have at least done part of the Kinetic Theory Second Year Course.

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