Physics and Astronomy Colloquium Series
Winter 2012


Talks are scheduled for Thursdays at 12:40 PM in Room N304 of the Science and Engineering Building, unless otherwise indicated. Pizza and beverages are served at 12:20PM.

All are welcome!



5 January


12 January

The Nitrogen-Vacancy Color Center in Diamond: A Tool for Quantum Information, Magnetometry, and Biology

David Le Sage
Harvard University

Research involving nitrogen-vacancy (NV) defect centers in diamond has rapidly proliferated over the last few years. The NV center behaves in many ways like an atom frozen inside of an inert, transparent medium. The electronic spin state of a single NV can be optically initialized and measured using a confocal fluorescence microscope, and also coherently manipulated using microwaves, with spin coherence times on the order of 1 ms. These properties are remarkable for a solid state system operating at room temperature, making NV centers one of the most promising systems for quantum information processing, as well as a useful tool for precision magnetometry and a number of potential biological applications. In this talk, I will give an overview of some basic NV physics, the experimental techniques used to study NV centers, and a selection of current research topics going on in our lab and in the wider NV community.

19 January

Student Research Opportunities with Union Faculty

26 January


2 February

Department Self-Study
No Colloquium

9 February


16 February

Cosmology and the Dimensionality of Space

Bob Poltis
University at Buffalo

Cosmology is the study of the nature, history, and evolution of the universe. Thanks to recent technological advancements, our generation is the first to see cosmology move from a speculative pursuit to a data-driven science. Modern cosmology is a marriage of particle physics, general relativity, and astrophysics. Despite the enormous success over the last ~20 years of cosmological exploration, there still remain some bothersome problems that the standard model of cosmology does not address. I will review the basic picture of cosmology, present some problems to that picture, present solutions to those problems, present more problems, and finally present a creative new idea to explain some of these peculiar observations and measurements including dark energy, the fine tuning of the Higgs mass, and the information loss paradox of black holes.

23 February


1 March

Commercial Remote Sensing: An Orbit Standpoint

Shannon Sturtevant
GeoEye Manager, Orbit & Mission Analysis

In the mid-1990's, a Presidential directive paved the way for commercial remote sensing. GeoEye, a premier provider of geospatial information and insight, originated from some of the first companies to take advantage of the newfound opportunity. This talk will touch briefly on the basics of commercial remote sensing but will delve deeper into the considerations required for designing and maintaining an orbit to satisfy a high-spatial resoultion (< 1m/pix), Earth-imaging mission. Topics covered will include orbit design, orbital perturbations, satellite maneuvers, and space situational awareness including collision mitigation, which is becoming an increasingly prevalent issue.

8 March

The Assembly and Evolution of Groups of Galaxies

Eric Wilcotts
University of Wisconsin, Madison

The vast majority of galaxies reside in groups, loose collections of ten to twenty galaxies, and it is becoming increasingly clear that much of the transformation of galaxies occurs in this intermediate environment rather than in larger clusters. We report on work that shows how the evolution of the group environment influences the evolution of the resident galaxies and how feedback resulting from the evolution of individual galaxies influences their larger environment. We also look at how algorithms developed for social networking may shed light on the nature of the large scale distribution of galaxies in the local Universe.

Schedule for Spring Term 2012

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Last Updated: 12 December 2011