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The Australian National University


RSPE School Seminar Program
Dr. David Ridout

What's New in Critical Lattice Phenomena?

Dr David Ridout

Thursday, 1 December 2011, 4:00pm

Leonard Huxley Lecture Theatre

Phase transitions and critical phenomena have historically provided a number of challenges for theoretical and mathematical physicists. At issue is the fact that the correlation length diverges in such systems, so it is difficult to model them with a small number of degrees of freedom. A way to overcome this was found via Wilson's renormalization group wherein the scaling limit of critical systems could be argued to be equivalent to certain Euclidean quantum field theories. In particular, conformal field theoretic methods then yield exact computations, in many cases, for universal quantities such as critical exponents and correlation functions.

Whilst undeniably successful, there is something vaguely discomforting about this program. The physical models that are "solved" in the above manner are inherently probabilistic (eg. the Ising model), so it should be surprising, and perhaps alarming, that their analysis requires quantum field theory. In the last ten years, mathematicians, inspired and disturbed by this, have wrought their own set of breakthroughs in studying these models. Their approach is based upon probability, stochastic PDEs and conformal analysis. It goes by the name "Schramm-Loewner Evolution" (SLE) and has, so far, been rewarded with two Fields medals.

This talk aims to give a brief (and gentle) introduction to the ideas described above and how one could hope to reconcile the physicist's and mathematician's approaches to critical phenomena.

Dr David Ridout is an Australian Research Fellow in the Department of Theoretical Physics and the Mathematical Sciences Institute. He obtained his doctorate at the University of Adelaide in 2005, studying conformal field theory and applications to string theory. He then held a postdoctoral fellowship from NSERC in Quebec (2005-2007), a Marie-Curie fellowship at DESY, Hamburg (2007-2009), and a fellowship from the CRM in Montreal (2010). Since returning to Australia late last year, he has been exploring mathematical aspects of logarithmic conformal field theories, integrable sigma models and statistical lattice models.

ANU Public Lecture
Prof. Kip Thorne

Probing the Warped Side of the Universe with Gravitational Waves: From the Big Bang to Black Holes

Professor Lawrence Krauss

Tuesday, 5 July 2011, 6:30-7:30pm

Manning Clarke Theatre 1, Union Court

There is a Warped Side to our Universe: objects and phenomena made largely or entirely from warped space and warped time rather than from matter. Examples are the Big Bang, in which our Universe was born and Black Holes, from which nothing can ever escape. The ideal way to probe this Warped Side is with Gravitational Waves: ripples in the fabric of space-time.

The Warped Side will be studied in detail by an International Network of Advanced Gravitational Wave Interferometers that is now under construction. These gravitational observations, which may radically change our understanding of the universe, would be greatly strengthened by adding to the Network an Interferometer in the Southern Hemisphere, ideally in Australia.

Kip Thorne is The Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus, at the California Institute of Technology. He has been an intellectual leader in theoretical physics and in gravitational-wave science for a half century. His research has ranged from the esoteric (the theory of black holes, wormholes and time travel) to the practical (technology to underpin gravitational-wave detectors).

Thorne is famous for his skill in communicating science to non scientists. His book Black Holes and Time Warps, Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy received prestigious awards in the USA and in Russia. He is the Executive Producer and co-author of the forthcoming science fiction movie Interstellar, which is set on the Warped Side of the Universe.

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Presented by ANU College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences

ANU Public Lecture
Prof. Lawrence Krauss

Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's life in science

Professor Lawrence Krauss

Thursday, 2 June 2011, 6:30-7:30pm

Manning Clarke Theatre 1, Union Court

It took a man who was willing to break all the rules to tame a theory that breaks all the rules. This talk, based on Lawrence Krauss's new book, Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's life in science, presents a charming and accessible overview of the scientific contributions of world famous physicist and public figure Richard Feynman, as seen through the arc of his fascinating life.

From Quantum Mechanics to Antiparticles, from Rio de Janeiro to Los Alamos, this whirlwind tour will provide a unique and personal insight not only into the character, life and accomplishments of one of the 20th centuries most important scientists, it will provide key perspectives on the science that is governing current research at the forefront of physics today, presented by one of the most accomplished popularisers of science in the world today.

Presented by ANU College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences

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ANU Public Lecture
Prof. Yau Shing-Tung

The Shape Of Inner Space: String Theory & the geometry of the universes' hidden dimensions.

Professor Yau Shing-Tung

Wednesday, 24 November 2010, 1:00-2:00pm

Manning Clarke Theatre 1, Union Court

This lecture is free and open to the public

String theory says we live in a ten-dimensional universe, but that only four are accessible to our everyday senses. According to theorists, the missing six are curled up in bizarre structures known as Calabi-Yau manifolds. The discoverer of these manifolds, Professor Yau Shing-Tung, will describe in general terms how geometry enables the understanding of space time and trace its historical development from the ancient Greeks through Einstein to modern string theory, analysing on the way the contributions of many great geometers and physicists.

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RSPE Development Event
Prof. Chen Ning Yang

How Mathematics and Physics Got Together Again

Professor Chen Ning Yang

Thursday 29 July 2010, 6-6.45pm

Leonard Huxley Theatre
Level 2, Bulding 56,
Mills Road, ANU

A seminar by Nobel Laureate Professor Chen Ning Yang for staff, students, donors and friends of the School.

In the first half of the twentieth century, Mathematics became abstract and was divorced from Physics. In this talk, Professor Chen Ning Yang will describe how this situation was dramatically changed.

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