All posts by chad orzel

Union Astronomy Team Organizes and Attends NSF-Sponsored Workshop at Arecibo Observatory

Union astronomers at AreciboAssociate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Rebecca Koopmann, ’89, organized the third annual NSF-sponsored ALFALFA (Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA) Undergraduate Team Workshop at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico January 11-14, 2010. The Arecibo Observatory is home to the 305-m diameter Arecibo telescope, the largest telescope in the world.

SreyNoch Chin ’12 and Schuyler Smith accompanied Koopmann to the workshop, joining a selected group of 18 undergraduate students and 14 faculty members from 16 colleges and universities across the United States to learn about radio astronomy, observing at Arecibo Observatory, and applications to the study of other galaxies.

As part of the workshop, Chin and Smith presented a poster about their Summer 2009 research project at Union.
Entitled “ALFALFA HI Observations of the NGC 5846 Group of Galaxies,” the poster describes their research on a concentration of galaxies within the ALFALFA survey area to determine how their proximity has influenced their evolution. Kaitlyn O’Brien, ’11, was a coauthor of the poster.

Among other activities, Chin and Smith visited the platform suspended 450-feet above the reflecting surface of the Arecibo telescope and participated in observing runs for the ALFALFA project.

The ALFALFA project, led by astronomers Riccardo Giovanelli and Martha Haynes of Cornell, is a multiyear survey of a large area of the sky at radio wavelengths appropriate for the detection of neutral hydrogen gas in other galaxies. It is expected that more than 30,000 galaxies out to a distance of 750 million light years will be detected by the survey.

Winter 2010 Colloquium Schedule

Colloquia are held on Thursdays at 12:40pm in Room N304 of the Science and Engineering Center, unless otherwise noted. Pizza and soda are provided at 12:15. All are welcome.

14-Jan Dr. Harry Ringermacher, General Electric Global Research Center, Why does the Hubble Classification of Spiral Galaxies Correlate Poorly with their Arm Angle-of-Pitch ?

Since Hubble himself classified spiral galaxies according to arm sweep and bulge size (Sa, Sb and Sc types representing increasing sweep with decreasing bulge), one might naturally expect that the carefully measured angle-of-pitch of arms in spiral galaxies should correlate very well with Hubble Type. In fact, ever since Danvers plotted arm-pitch vs Hubble Type in 1942 to recent measurements by Kennicutt and Seigar, little or no correlation has been found. We prove there are two root causes: 1) misclassification of galaxies, and, most critically; (2) the assumption that “average pitch”, used by all astronomers in measuring galaxy pitch, is a good correlation parameter. We introduce a new formula that describes the natural pitch variation of all spiral galaxies dependent only on a single “pitch-parameter”. The pitch parameter of our formula, for the first time, produces an excellent correlation to Hubble Type in a study of 21 galaxies. Representative examples of fitted galaxies will be shown.

7-Jan Dr. Sarah Demers, Yale University, Hunting for New Physics at the LHC

CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) brings a new energy frontier to particle physics with the potential for discoveries of new physics. The thousands of physicists collaborating on the LHC experiments are in the final stages of preparation for the 2010 run and are analyzing the collisions that began in December, 2009. In this talk I will introduce the LHC and the ATLAS experiment and discuss some of the ways in which we hope to add to our understanding of the fundamental particles and forces in nature.

4-Feb Mark Kostuk Using Chaotic Synchronization for Nonlinear State and Parameter Estimation: Theory and Applications from Bird-Brains to Barotropic Vorticity.

Nonlinear systems abound in nature; unfortunately when studying such systems it is usually only possible to measure an incomplete portion of its dynamical state. Due to the possible existence of chaos in the dynamics, this presents the researcher with a problem if they have a representative model of the system and wish to use these measurements to uncover information about any of its unknown parameters. Alternatively, what if the exact underlying physics of the system are known and one would like to predict its future behavior; this is only possible if one has complete knowledge of its current state. In this talk I will discuss this general problem, why standard estimation techniques may fail, and how we use the phenomena of chaotic synchronization -in the form of an optimization problem- to gain a complete estimate of the state and any unknown parameters of a nonlinear system from incomplete data. I will demonstrate its successful application to a wide variety of nonlinear problems, from neuron models of the vocal center of the zebra finch to simplified fluid-dynamics models of the ocean. In addition, this method can be used to filter noisy measurements, and to provide a measure with which to choose between competing models. Crucially for large problems, such as weather forecasting, it is also possible to determine the number of measurements that are necessary for such estimations to be successful.

11-Feb Matt Martin ’06 RPI Title TBA

4-Mar Alex Handin ’10 Senior Thesis Research Presentation

Union Astronomers Present at 2010 American Astronomical Society Meeting in Washington DC

Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Rebecca Koopmann, ’89, and Physics major Katelyn O’Brien, ’11, traveled to the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C., Jan 5-7, to present the results of their research on the gas properties of galaxies, as traced by radio observations at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. O’Brien presented a poster with Union co-authors SreyNoch Chin, ’12 and Schuyler Smith entitled “ALFALFA HI Observations Of The NGC 5846 Galaxy Group,” reporting the gas properties of galaxies located in an intermediate density region of the ALFALFA survey area.

Koopmann presented two posters. “ALFALFA HI Content and Star Formation of Early-type Dwarfs in The Virgo Cluster,” with coauthors R. Giovanelli & M. P. Haynes of Cornell University, B. R. Kent of the National Radio Astronomy Observatories, and N. Brosch of Wise Observatory and Tel Aviv University, describes Koopmann’s work on gas and star formation in low-mass galaxies in a dense environment. Koopmann’s second poster “The Undergraduate ALFALFA Team” with coauthors S. Higdon of Georgia Southern University, T. J. Balonek of Colgate University and M. P. Haynes and R. Giovanelli of Cornell University reported results from the first two years of the NSF-sponsored grant program that encourages undergraduate activities within the ALFALFA program. More than 50 undergraduates across the United States have participated so far. Activities include annual workshops (organized by Koopmann) and observing runs at Arecibo Observatory as well as summer and academic year research programs.

Prof. Orzel Publishes “How to Teach Physics to Your Dog”

Chad Orzel, associate professor of physics has written a popular-audience book explaining quantum physics through imaginary conversations with his German Shepherd mix, Emmy. Their conversations are recorded in How to Teach Physics to Your Dog, published by Scribner on December 22, 2009. Author Cory Doctorow, in a review at Boing Boing says that it combines “a scientist’s rigor and accuracy with a natural raconteur’s storytelling skill,” and Booklist says “It’s hard to imagine a better way for the mathematically and scientifically challenged, in particular, to grasp basic quantum physics.”

More information about the book is available at the book’s web site, including reviews, a sample chapter and book-related videos, and interviews with Chad and Emmy. You can also learn more in the Union College Chronicle.

Prof. Orzel Publishes in Physics World

An article by Chad Orzel, professor of physics, is included in the December issue of “Physics World,” a popular-audience magazine. “Measuring (Almost) Zero” (free registration required) details experiments using cold molecules to search for an electric dipole moment of the electron. These experiments, going on at Yale and in the United Kingdom, could shed light on some of the deepest mysteries of particle physics without needing billion-dollar particle accelerators. “Physics World” is published by the Institutes of Physics in the UK.

Physics Faculty and Students Present at Conference in Hawaii

Five students from the Department of Physics and Astronomy were among some 140 undergraduate students from the U.S. and Japan who presented posters at the Third Joint Meeting of the Nuclear Physics Division of the American Physical Society (APS) and the Physical Society of Japan in Waikoloa, Hawaii, in October. Daniel Barringer ’11 and Ana Mikler ’12 presented posters on their research in nuclear astrophysics with Professor Rebecca Surman, who also presented on “Nucleosynthesis of Nickel-56 from Gamma-Ray Burst Accretion Disks”. Colin Gleason ’11 and Chad Harrington ’11 reported on work they conducted with Professor Michael Vineyard on the elemental analysis of pollutants in aerosol samples using proton-induced X-ray emission (PIXE). Katie Schuff ’12 presented a poster on the PIXE analysis of pollutants in rain water performed with Professor Scott LaBrake. The students all won competitive awards from the Conference Experience for Undergraduates program of the APS for travel and/or lodging.

Prof. Orzel Appears at Quantum to Cosmos Festival

Chad Orzel, associate professor of physics, was part of a panel on
Communicating Science in the 21st Century” as part of the Quantum to
Cosmos Festival
at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. The Quantum to Cosmos Festival was a
ten-day international celebration of science, bringing together
scientists, journalists, authors, and artists to discuss current
science, its influence on modern life, and what we can expect in the
future. On the panel with Prof. Orzel were Kathryn O’Hara, the CTV
Chair in Science Broadcast Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa
and president of the Canadian Science Writers Association; Ivan
Semeniuk, Journalist-in-Residence, Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and
Astrophysics at the University of Toronto; Nadia El-Awady lecturer of
online journalism at the Al-Ahram Canadian University in Cairo and
President of the World Federation of Science Journalists; and
Véronique Morin, a freelance science journalist for television, radio
and magazines, science journalist for the science magazine program Le
Code Chastenay on the public network Tele- Quebec, and past president
of both the Canadian Science Writers’ Association and the World
Federation of Science Journalists. The panel discussed the importance
of science communication and science journalism for both science and
society at large, and the effects of new technologies on the status
and future of science communication. The panel was streamed live on
the web, and recorded for future broadcast on TV Ontario.

Prof. Amanuel Presents at Thermal Analysis Conference

Samuel Amanuel, assistant professor of physics, recently presented a paper on “Reconciliation of the Apparent Delta H During the Phase Transition of Physically Confined System” at the North American Thermal Analysis Society Annual Conference in Lubbock Texas. The analysis and calculations showed that the behavior of molecules within 2.14 nano meters from a surface is different than molecules far away from a surface. The work involved summer research by Physics majors Hillary Bauer ’11, Peter Bonventre ’11 and Dana Lasher ’08.

Nobel Laureate Martin Perl Honored at Commencement

Martin L. Perl, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in physics for teh discovery of the tau lepton, received an honorary doctorate of science at commencement on June 14th.

Perl credits Union with his decision to study physics, thanks to classes he took while working as a chemical engineer for the General Electric Co. in Schenectady.

“I got to know a wonderful physics professor, Vladimir Rojansky,” Perl writes in his official biographical statement. “One day he said to me ‘Martin, what you are interested in is called physics, not chemistry!’ At the age of 23, I finally decided to begin the study of physics.”

For more on Martin Perl, see the Chronicle story

Prof. Surman Publishes in Phys. Rev. C

An article by Rebecca Surman, associate professor of Physics, was recently published in the April issue of the journal Physical Review C. The article, “Neutron capture rates near A=130 that effect a global change to the r-process abundance distribution,” was co-authored with J. Beun and G.C. McLaughlin of North Carolina State University and W.R. Hix of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Surman gave invited seminars on her work at TRIUMF National Laboratory in Vancouver and at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State University. This week, she also presented an invited talk on her work at the national nuclear structure conference, “Collective Motions in Nuclei under Extreme Conditions (COMEX 3),” in Mackinac Island, Mich.