Saturday Physics for Everyone

Saturday Physics for Everyone (SPE) is a series of lectures on modern aspects of the physical sciences held Saturday mornings each fall. The program began in 1993 and offers high school students the opportunity to hear presentations from world-class scientists and researchers.

By attending Saturday Physics for Everyone, you will learn about recent advances in the physical sciences, you will gain an understanding of how physics affects development in modern technology, and influences your life on a daily basis. A question and answer session is held at the end of each program. This is your chance to interact with renowned scientific leaders in the research community.

  • Audience: High school students and the general public.
  • Cost: Free of charge.
  • Time: 10:15 am to 11:30 am, unless indicated otherwise.
  • Location: Room 141, Loomis Laboratory of Physics, 1110 West Green Street, Urbana, IL
  • Parking: East side of building in lot B21.
  • Questions/comments? Email us at sat_physics@physics.illinois.edu.
  • Talk slides: When available, the slides from the professors' talks can be found linked from the individual events below. View the 2018 series poster.

No events match the search.

Event Title Speaker Date/Time Location
How to Stop Covid-19 Using Mathematics Professor Nigel Goldenfeld 9/12/2020
10:15 am
Zoom Webinar
9/12/2020 10:15 am 9/12/2020 America/Chicago Saturday Physics for Everyone DESCRIPTION:

Prof. Nigel Goldenfeld will be giving the first SPE lecture on "How to Stop COVID-19 Using Mathematics" on  Saturday, September 12, 2020, at 10:15 AM. 

“Modeling the COVID-19 epidemic is not rocket science, it’s harder,” notes theoretical physicist and Swanlund Professor Nigel Goldenfeld, who has helped guide state and local officials in predicting the spread of this pandemic.
 
In this Saturday Physics for Everyone 2020 virtual seminar, he’ll describe how modeling the spread of this virus is similar to modeling a rocket’s trajectory, but you can’t see the rocket, the direction it's pointing, or how much fuel the rocket has. Clearly, the best methods we have for managing the COVID-19 pandemic rely on using mathematics as our guide. This lecture will delve into exactly how these mathematical models are developed and verified, their current accuracy, as well as some local and state predictions that arise.

Saturday Physics for Everyone (SPE) lectures are free and open to the public- all are welcome to attend. 

\n\nSPEAKER: Professor Nigel Goldenfeld
Zoom Webinar false
When Stars Attack! Near-Earth Supernova Explosions and their Radioactive Fingerprints Professor Brian Fields 9/26/2020
10:15 am
Zoom Webinar
9/26/2020 10:15 am 9/26/2020 America/Chicago Saturday Physics for Everyone DESCRIPTION:

Prof. Brian Fields, Nuclear and Particle Astrophysicist presented the second Saturday Physics for Everyone (SPE) Lecture on Sept. 26.

The most massive stars are the celebrities of the cosmos: they represent a small fraction of all stars, but live extravagant lives and die in spectacular and violent supernova explosions. While these events are awesome to observe, they can take a sinister shade when they occur closer to home, because an explosion within a certain "minimum safe distance" would pose a grave threat to Earthlings. We will discuss these cosmic threats to life and show compelling evidence of a “near miss” supernova from 3 million years ago that rained its debris upon the Earth.  This amazing discovery allows us to study supernova ashes in the laboratory and confirms that nearby explosions are a fact of life in our Galaxy.  We therefore press further, presenting recent evidence that supernova explosions could have caused biological extinctions on Earth around 360 million years ago.  We conclude with tests of this hypothesis, including the search for trace amounts of radioactive supernova byproducts in fossils that witnessed the end of the Devonian period.

\n\nSPEAKER: Professor Brian Fields
Zoom Webinar false
Cosmic Journeys, Quantum Voyages: Exploring Physics through the Arts Professor Smitha Vishveshwara 10/24/2020
11:15 am
Zoom link TBA
10/24/2020 11:15 am 10/24/2020 America/Chicago Saturday Physics for Everyone DESCRIPTION:

Professor Smitha Vishveshwara, a theoretical condensed matter physicist, presented a lecture on "Quantum Voyages, Cosmic Journeys: Exploring Physics through the Arts" on October 24, 2020 at 11:15AM CT.

Saturday Physics for Everyone (SPE) lectures are free and open to the public- all are welcome to attend.

\n\nSPEAKER: Professor Smitha Vishveshwara
Zoom link TBA false
Reverse alchemy: turning gold into the most perfect liquid Professor Jaki Noronha-Hostler 11/14/2020
10:15 am
Zoom Webinar
11/14/2020 10:15 am 11/14/2020 America/Chicago Saturday Physics for Everyone DESCRIPTION:

Theoretical Physicist Prof. Jaki Noronha-Hostler presents a Saturday Physics for Everyone (SPE) talked entitled "Reverse alchemy: turning gold into the most perfect liquid" on Nov. 14, from 10:15-11:30. Also, don’t miss the panel discussion for high school students interested in majoring in physics, held at noon CT, using the same link. REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED

Abstract:
We are all familiar with liquids such as water and intuitively know many of its basic properties.  But what happens when a liquid is moving at 99.9999% the speed of light? What happens when we heat it up to the hottest temperatures ever reached on Earth?  What happens when the liquid forms the smallest droplet known to humanity?  To answer these questions, physicists have been performing reverse alchemy.   Instead of turning lead into gold, scientists have been working for the past 20 years to turn gold ions into the smallest, hottest, and fastest flowing droplets of liquid created on Earth- the Quark-Gluon Plasma. In this talk, I will explain how we can study such an extreme liquid and explain why it can provide insight into the Early Universe and potentially what lies inside a neutron star's core. 

A Q&A discussion panel for high school students interested in majoring in physics will be held directly after Prof. Noronha-Hostler's lecture, from 12:00-12:45 CT. This panel will include current and former Illinois Physics undergraduate students answering prospective student questions including:

  • How do you best prepare for an undergraduate physics degree in high school?
  • What types of things will you learn as an undergraduate Illinois Physics student?
  • Common questions regarding on-campus life, housing, and food
  • Where do our graduates end up? What types of positions do they take?
  • Much more, including any questions you bring!
\n\nSPEAKER: Professor Jaki Noronha-Hostler
Zoom Webinar false
Arts, Science, and the Elegant Universe Lindsay Olson & Dr. Kirsty Duffy 12/5/2020
10:15 am
Zoom Webinar
12/5/2020 10:15 am 12/5/2020 America/Chicago Saturday Physics for Everyone DESCRIPTION:

“Scientists and artists both thrive on uncertainty and a sense of adventure.” These two ideas have inspired Lindsay Olson during her residency at Fermilab. Working with Fermilab scientists, like Dr. Kirsty Duffy, she created a body of work about the Standard Model, neutrino research, and the CMS experiment at CERN.
Dr. Duffy will talk about the neutrino, the universe’s weirdest particle. She will share her excitement about the research she is doing at Fermilab with hundreds (or thousands!) of scientists from around the world, and try to explain why she and so many people have dedicated their lives to understanding a particle that can’t even be seen. Lindsay will talk about the impact of working collaboratively with scientists and using what she learns to create art that helps others understand science. She will share how her projects evolved and changed not only how she made art but how she views her role as an artist in the wider community.

REGISTER

\n\nSPEAKER: Lindsay Olson & Dr. Kirsty Duffy
Zoom Webinar false
Event Title Speaker Date/Time Location
Creating Photoreal Digital Human Characters for Movies, Games, and Virtual Reality Paul Debevec, Senior Scientist at Google VR and Adj. Research Prof. at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies 9/14/2019
10:15 am
141 Loomis Laboratory
9/14/2019 10:15 am 9/14/2019 America/Chicago Saturday Physics for Everyone DESCRIPTION:

For those that missed it, please watch the recorded talk here: https://youtu.be/Da7Lqelk3ng

Abstract: This talk will present a range of work conducted at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies and Google VR while working to develop novel methods for recording and rendering photorealistic actors and environments for movies, games, and virtual reality. One such novel development is the Light Stage facial scanning system, a system of geodesic spheres of inward-pointing LED lights which have been used to help create digital actors based on real people in movies such as Avatar, Benjamin Button, Maleficent, Furious 7, Blade Runner: 2049, and Ready Player One. Light Stages can also reproduce recorded omnidirectional lighting environments and have recently been outfitted with multispectral LED lights to accurately mimic the color rendition properties of daylight, incandescent, and mixed lighting environments. Our full-body Light Stage 6 system was used with natural language processing and an automultiscopic projector array to record and project interactive hologram-like conversations with survivors of the Holocaust. I will conclude the talk by presenting Google VR's "Welcome to Light Fields", the first downloadable virtual reality light field experience which records and displays 360-degree photographic environments. This allows users to move inside the environment of with six degrees of freedom, creating a far more comfortable and immersive VR experience.

Bio: Paul Debevec is a Senior Scientist at Google VR and an adjunct research professor at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies in Los Angeles. Paul a graduate of Urbana's University High School received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from UC Berkeley in 1996, where his thesis presented Façade, an image-based modeling and rendering system for creating photoreal architectural models from photographs. Using Façade he led the creation of virtual cinematography of the Berkeley campus for his 1997 film The Campanile Movie whose techniques were used to create virtual backgrounds in The Matrix. Debevec pioneered high dynamic range image-based lighting techniques. At USC ICT, he continued the development of Light Stage devices for recording geometry and appearance and helped create new 3D Display devices for telepresence and teleconferencing.  His work has received two Academy Awards for Scientific and Technical Achievement, the SMPTE Progress Medal, and the ACM SIGGRAPH Significant New Researcher Award.  http://www.debevec.org/

Creating Photoreal Digital Human Characters for Movies, Games, and Virtual Reality

\n\nSPEAKER: Paul Debevec, Senior Scientist at Google VR and Adj. Research Prof. at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies
141 Loomis Laboratory false
Touching All The Bases: A Peek Inside the World of a Baseball Physicist Prof. Alan Nathan 9/28/2019
10:15 am
141 Loomis Laboratory
9/28/2019 10:15 am 9/28/2019 America/Chicago Saturday Physics for Everyone DESCRIPTION:

For those that missed it, you can watch the recorded talk here: https://youtu.be/s_vws3mMeFE

After reading Bob Adair's classic book The Physics of Baseball over 20 years ago, I thought I knew everything there was to know about the subject.  I have since learned much more than I ever thought possible, due in large part to the development of advanced scientific tools which allow for detailed scientific studies  about baseball.  Advances arose in two broad areas:  The aerodynamics of a baseball in flight and the physics of the ball-bat collision.  Not only have these advances furthered our understanding of baseball physics, but they have also had a practical application to the game itself.  I will provide many examples, including a selection of the following:

- The role of the batter's grip during the ball-bat collision.

- How atmospheric conditions affect the flight of the baseball.

- Knuckleballs, gyroballs, and all that.

- What's the deal with the humidor?

- Drilling down on the home run surge.

I will sprinkle the talk with amusing high-speed videos and anecdotes about our national pastime.  So, the talk should have something for everybody, whether your interest is primarily physics, baseball, or the intersection between them.

Touching All The Bases: A Peek Inside the World of a Baseball Physicist

\n\nSPEAKER: Prof. Alan Nathan
141 Loomis Laboratory false
Artificial Topological Materials: Designing for the 22nd Century Prof. Bryce Gadway 10/12/2019
10:15 am
141 Loomis Laboratory
10/12/2019 10:15 am 10/12/2019 America/Chicago Saturday Physics for Everyone DESCRIPTION:

For those that missed it, you can see the recorded talk here: https://youtu.be/kBAv7d4hHNI

The discovery and application of novel materials has laid the foundation of our modern world.   In recent decades, a new state of matter called "topological" materials has revealed amazingly robust properties.  Interestingly, our understanding of these materials stems from deep insights in mathematics.  There is great interest in utilizing the robust properties of topological states for practical tasks, such as the improved definition of SI standards and the enhancement of signal transmission in the presence of defects.  Recently, scientists have extended the study of topology to other areas of physics and engineering.   In the talk, I will describe how the mathematical concept is intertwined with the physical world with specific examples in my lab, such as ultracold gases of atoms, cooled a billion times below room temperature, or simple systems of masses on springs.

Artificial Topological Materials: Designing for the 22nd century

\n\nSPEAKER: Prof. Bryce Gadway
141 Loomis Laboratory false
The Mysterious Muon Prof. Aida El-Khadra 10/26/2019
10:15 am
141 Loomis Laboratory
10/26/2019 10:15 am 10/26/2019 America/Chicago Saturday Physics for Everyone DESCRIPTION:

For those that missed it, you can see the recorded talk here: https://youtu.be/LHjHUOrb9p4

More than eighty years after the muon was first discovered, it remains a source of mystery. Fortunately, experiments are underway that use muons as a window to search for new physics — a central goal of the high energy physics community.  These efforts build on the tantalizing tension between physics experimentalists and theorists, each trying to determine the muon’s magnetic moment.  The theory predicts about three-and-a-half standard deviations difference to the currently observed data, and this disagreement hints towards new, previously misunderstood physics. In particular, the recently started experiment at Fermilab aims to measure the muon’s magnetic moment with exquisite precision of 140 parts per billion, which would reduce the experimental uncertainty by a factor of four.  After a brief tour of its history, I will discuss the ongoing interplay between theory and experiment that is essential for revealing one of the remaining unknowns of the universe.

The Mysterious Muon

\n\nSPEAKER: Prof. Aida El-Khadra
141 Loomis Laboratory false
Electromagnetic Radiation from Free Electrons: From AM Radio to Free Electron Lasers Prof. James Eckstein 11/9/2019
10:15 am
141 Loomis Laboratory
11/9/2019 10:15 am 11/9/2019 America/Chicago Saturday Physics for Everyone DESCRIPTION:

For those that missed it, you can see the recorded talk here: https://youtu.be/HVdZxWvleDc

In the quest to generate more powerful and higher frequency sources of radiation, researchers invented technologies that produce very high-power beams of electrons at high voltages. These electron-beam technologies have proven so useful that today we find them in radar systems, microwave ovens, and even x-ray lasers. Their story begins in the 1930s, when graduate students Russell and Sigurd Varian invented the Klystron. The device was driven by a non-relativisitic electron beam that provided high gain, high output power, and good efficiency for amplifying microwaves—a use that was immediately adapted in radar systems during WWII. Forty years later, the Free Electron Laser, which was based on similar principles, opened the door to using relativistic, fast-moving electron beams. In this talk, Prof. Eckstein will highlight the history of electron-beam devices and explain the common thread of electron bunching that makes these coherent sources possible, even without Plank’s constant appearing anywhere.

\n\nSPEAKER: Prof. James Eckstein
141 Loomis Laboratory false
What is a Physicist Doing Studying Biology? Prof. Paul Selvin 12/7/2019
10:15 am
141 Loomis Laboratory
12/7/2019 10:15 am 12/7/2019 America/Chicago Saturday Physics for Everyone DESCRIPTION:

For those that missed it, you can see the recorded talk here: https://youtu.be/cRIlGRFzSik

The invention of the optical microscope 500 years ago allowed scientists to see objects smaller than a hair’s width—or, in scientific jargon, about 250 nanometers—but no smaller because of the laws of optics; this limit is called the diffraction limit. Only recently have scientists developed a way to "break" the diffraction limit and "see" even smaller objects. My lab has applied and tested this technique on two biological puzzles with tremendous clinical possibilities:

1) Each cell in your body is like a little city that has cars and trucks moving proteins around. In this talk I’ll describe how these "cargo trucks" (motor proteins) move— is it by walking, sliding, or some other motion?

2) We’ve also applied this technique to more deeply understand communication among nerve cells and the processes involved when humans think, remember, and forget. Being able to see little "memory proteins" move into place at the nanometer scale is critical for making progress on devastating diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.

What is a Physicist Doing Studying Biology?

\n\nSPEAKER: Prof. Paul Selvin
141 Loomis Laboratory false
Event Title Speaker Date/Time Location
A Look Inside the Hottest Matter in the Universe Professor Anne Sickles, Department of Physics, University of Illinois 9/15/2018
10:15 am
141 Loomis Laboratory
9/15/2018 10:15 am 9/15/2018 America/Chicago Saturday Physics for Everyone DESCRIPTION:

Soon after the Big Bang, the universe was too hot for normal matter to exist.  Instead, the universe was made up of an extremely hot liquid of quarks and gluons: the quark-gluon plasma (QGP). As the universe cooled, these quarks and gluons combined into protons and neutrons, which later formed atomic nuclei.  Those nuclei are at the center of the atoms that make up the matter around us today.  To learn about the QGP, we use particle accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN to collide pairs of nuclei at nearly the speed of light.  Each collision has enough energy to melt the protons and neutrons inside the nuclei and create a tiny droplet of the QGP.  I will discuss how we study the QGP in our lab and what we have learned.

A Look Inside the Hottest Matter in the Universe

\n\nSPEAKER: Professor Anne Sickles, Department of Physics, University of Illinois
141 Loomis Laboratory false
Sustainable Energy Professor Scott Willenbrock, Department of Physics, University of Illinois 9/29/2018
10:15 am
141 Loomis Laboratory
9/29/2018 10:15 am 9/29/2018 America/Chicago Saturday Physics for Everyone DESCRIPTION:

Modern civilization depends on ready access to energy.  Most of that energy comes from burning fossil fuels, which is unsustainable and causing the Earth’s climate to change.  I will discuss various ways in which we can move towards a sustainable energy system.

Sustainable Energy

\n\nSPEAKER: Professor Scott Willenbrock, Department of Physics, University of Illinois
141 Loomis Laboratory false
Inflation and the Hot Big Bang: The Quantum Origin of Structure in the Universe Professor Peter Adshead, Department of Physics, University of Illinois 10/13/2018
10:15 am
141 Loomis Laboratory
10/13/2018 10:15 am 10/13/2018 America/Chicago Saturday Physics for Everyone DESCRIPTION:

The cosmological standard model has been overwhelmingly successful at describing our observed universe.  In this model, an accelerating, spatially flat universe underwent a hot, dense, early phase of expansion.  That hot Big-Bang produced light elements such as hydrogen and helium via nucleosynthesis and generated the relic cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation. However, this theory has a problem: the CMB we observe is uniform to 0.01% across the sky, despite apparently being composed of roughly 40,000 causally disconnected patches.  Within the cosmological standard model, this measurement is inconsistent with cause-and-effect!  In this talk, I will describe how an earlier epoch of accelerated expansion called “inflation” solves this horizon problem, while giving rise to quantum mechanical fluctuations that seed the structures observed in our Universe today.

Inflation and the Hot Big Bang

\n\nSPEAKER: Professor Peter Adshead, Department of Physics, University of Illinois
141 Loomis Laboratory false
Towards a Quantum Internet Professor Virginia Lorenz, Department of Physics, University of Illinois 10/27/2018
10:15 am
141 Loomis Laboratory
10/27/2018 10:15 am 10/27/2018 America/Chicago Saturday Physics for Everyone DESCRIPTION:

Quantum communication uses the quantum properties of photons, such as their ability to affect each other’s states instantaneously no matter their physical separation, to transmit information with absolute security. I will explain the underlying concepts of quantum communication and present some of the progress and pitfalls on the road to a quantum internet.  I will also talk about what it is like to work with such strange quantum effects in the lab.

Towards a Quantum Internet

\n\nSPEAKER: Professor Virginia Lorenz, Department of Physics, University of Illinois
141 Loomis Laboratory false
Ubiquitous Crackling: from Nanocrystal, to Neurons, to Earthquakes, to Stars Professor Karin Dahmen, Department of Physics, University of Illinois 11/10/2018
10:15 am
141 Loomis Laboratory
11/10/2018 10:15 am 11/10/2018 America/Chicago Saturday Physics for Everyone DESCRIPTION:

Crackling noise arises when a system responds to changing conditions through discrete, sudden events spanning a broad range of sizes. A wide variety of physical systems exhibiting crackling noise have been studied, from earthquakes to paper crumpling.   The regular behavior that appears in crackling across a huge range of sizes allows us to use a trick called “universality” to describe these systems using very simple models.  I will describe these ideas using results from a model of crackling noise in plastic deformation of materials, magnets, earthquakes, the brain, and stars.

Ubiquitous Crackling

\n\nSPEAKER: Professor Karin Dahmen, Department of Physics, University of Illinois
141 Loomis Laboratory false
Even Evolution Can't Have it All Professor Seppe Kuehn, Department of Physics, University of Illinois 12/1/2018
10:15 am
141 Loomis Laboratory
12/1/2018 10:15 am 12/1/2018 America/Chicago Saturday Physics for Everyone DESCRIPTION:

When engineers build machines, they must make decisions about performance.  For example, designing an internal combustion engine involves choosing between efficiency (a Prius) and power (a Porsche).  Engineers can’t have it all!  Amazingly, biological evolution involves the same type of constraints—often called “trade-offs.”  I will talk about how we tried to evolve bacteria to grow fast and swim fast in my lab.  Surprisingly, bacteria cannot do both and must, like an engineer, choose between fast growth and fast swimming.  I will discuss when and why bacteria choose a Porsche over a Prius, or a Prius over a Porsche.

Even Evolution Cannot Have It All

\n\nSPEAKER: Professor Seppe Kuehn, Department of Physics, University of Illinois
141 Loomis Laboratory false

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You may also like Saturday Engineering for Everyone offered in the spring semester.

Be sure to sign up for an NCSA tour "Artful 3D animations of scientific phenomena" offered all year long.