Physics

Forensic Physics  –  Ramon Torres-Isea
(Sessions 1 & 3)
 A fiber is found at a crime scene. Can we identify what type of fiber it is and can we match it to a suspect’s fiber sample, for example from a piece of clothing? Likewise, someone claims to have valuable ancient Roman coins, a newly-found old master painting, or a Viking map of America predating Columbus’ voyage. Are they authentic or fakes? How can we determine that using some physics-based techniques? (These are real examples the Viking map proved to be a forgery). Also for example, how is a laser-based molecular-probing technique used to stop criminals from trading billions of dollars of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and endangering thousands of lives? These are a few among many examples of experimental physics methods applied to several areas of Forensics. In this session, students will be introduced to these methods and have opportunities to make measurements using molecular, atomic and nuclear forensic techniques. In addition, applications to medical imaging and diagnostics will be introduced. Students will be working at our Intermediate and Advanced Physics Laboratories with the underlying physics for each method presented in detail, followed by demonstrations and laboratory activities, which include the identification of an “unknown” sample. Various crime scenes will challenge students to select and apply one or more of the methods and use their Forensic Physics skills to conduct investigations.

Relativity: A Journey through Warped Space and Time  –  Daniel Mayerson
(Session 3)
Einstein forever altered our understanding of the nature of space and time with his theories of relativity. These theories tell us that the speed of light is a universal constant, declare that the fabric of space and time is warped by matter, and demand that matter moves through spacetime by following its curvature. Introduced 100 years ago, these concepts clash mightily with our everyday physical intuition, but are nevertheless cornerstones of modern-day physics. In this course we will explore the exciting world of relativity (both the special and general theories). After briefly reviewing classical mechanics (Newton’s laws), we will use thought experiments to understand the ideas behind relativity and see how they are actually ultimately simpler and more natural than classical mechanics. Along the way we will encounter strange paradoxes that push the limits of our understanding and learn powerful mathematics that will allow us to quantify our relativistic understanding of the universe. Using our new knowledge, we will delve into black holes, learn how GPS systems work, and debate the possibility of time machines and wormholes. Prerequisites: basic concepts in geometry (e.g. coordinates, distance formulae) and working knowledge of elementary calculus (e.g. what a derivative is and how to take one). We will introduce some multivariable calculus (e.g. partial differentiation) and integration techniques, so prior knowledge of those is a bonus. An open, curious and interested mind is absolutely necessary; you must be willing to think deeply about physics and the nature of our universe!

The Physics of Magic and the Magic of Physics  –  Georg Raithel
(Session 1)
Rabbits that vanish; objects that float in air defying gravity; a tiger that disappears and then reappears elsewhere; mind reading, telepathy and x-ray vision; objects that penetrate solid glass; steel rings that pass through each other: these are some of the amazing tricks of magic and magicians. Yet even more amazing phenomena are found in nature and the world of physics and physicists: matter than can vanish and reappear as energy and vice-versa; subatomic particles that can penetrate steel; realistic 3-D holographic illusions; objects that change their dimensions and clocks that speed up or slow down as they move (relativity); collapsed stars that trap their own light (black holes); x-rays and lasers; fluids that flow uphill (liquid helium); materials without electrical resistance (superconductors.) In this class students will first study the underlying physics of some classical magic tricks and learn to perform several of these (and create new ones.) The “magic” of corresponding (and real) physical phenomena will then be introduced and studied with hands-on, minds-on experiments. Finally, we will visit a number of research laboratories where students can meet some of the “magicians” of physics – physics students and faculty – and observe experiments at the forefront of physics research.

Survey in Modern Physics  –  Jun Nian
(Session 3)
How can we describe curved spacetime? What is the difference between black hole and worm hole? Is a time machine ever possible? What is Schrödinger’s cat? What is quantum entanglement? Are there parallel universes? What are four elementary interactions in nature? What are anti-matter, dark matter and dark energy? What is Big Bang Theory? What is String Theory? We may have seen these words in many movies and science fictions, but what do they really mean? To answer these questions and to understand the concepts mentioned above, we need to first learn two fundamental pillars of modern physics, relativity and quantum mechanics, both of which take years of physics courses. This mini course is aimed at providing a crash course in these subjects. We will begin with elementary physics taught in high school, and then step by step survey in relativity and quantum mechanics, or more generally in modern physics. The key concepts will be demystified with a lot of examples, demonstrations and discussions. To help understand physics problems and methods, some tutorials and labs will be provided, accompanying the lectures everyday. Basic knowledge in calculus will be helpful, but not necessary. Good knowledge in mathematics and physics at high school level should be enough. Some advanced mathematics will be introduced during the course. The only prerequisite is the passion in science and modern physics.