All posts by chad orzel

Prof. Vineyard Publishes in Phys. Rev. Letters

Michael Vineyard, the Frank and Marie Louise Bailey Professor of Physics, is co-author of a recent article in Physical Review Letters, titled “Precise Measurement of the Neutron Magnetic Form Factor GMn in the Few-GeV2 Region.” This paper reports on the results of an experiment performed with the Large Acceptance Spectrometer in Hall B at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Va., that provides important information about the motion of quarks inside the neutron. The experiment was proposed to the Program Advisory Committee at Jefferson Lab by Professor Vineyard and Will Brooks, a research professor at Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María in Chile and formerly a Jefferson Lab staff scientist.

Alan Lightman Speaks to Physics and English Students

From the Chronicle:

They seemed hesitant to talk at first, the English and physics students who gathered together for a shared class Wednesday morning. But it didn’t take long for guest lecturer Alan Lightman to kindle a conversation in the nervous silence.

“Books enlighten us about human nature, just like Einstein’s theory of relativity enlightens us about the universe,” he said.

Lightman is the author of the international best-seller “Einstein’s Dreams” and “The Diagnosis,” a National Book Award finalist. He also is a noted physicist.

Both Lightman and the students acknowledged that science and art, in this case literature, take two different approaches to studying the world. Physics is quantitative in its search for answers, while literature is more qualitative.

Still, they seemed to agree that each method has value.

“Both ways you can look at the world around you,” said [Physics major] Alex Handin ’10. “You can learn something about the world through physics, but you can also learn something about the world through literature.”

Valentine’s Day Luncheon

The annual Valentine’s Day potluck luncheon will be held on Thursday, Feb. 12 this year, at 12:00 in the department conference room. Come eat food prepared by tyour favorite professors. Because nothing says “romance” like an afternoon with physicists.

Prof. Vineyard Co-Authors Ten Papers

Michael Vineyard, the Frank and Marie Louise Bailey Professor of Physics, was co-author of ten articles published in 2008 by the CEBAF Large Acceptance Spectrometer Collaboration at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Virginia. Eight of these articles appeared in the journal Physical Review C and two were published in Physical Review Letters. All of these papers are aimed at developing an understanding of nuclear structure in terms of the fundamental constituents — quarks and gluons.

Students, Teachers Take Part in Physical Constants Workshop

On December 6, 2008, the Department of Physics and Astronomy held the first annual Union College Physical Constants Workshop for high school physics teachers and students. Seven teachers and 17 students worked in teams to perform experiments to measure fundamental physical constants and gain experience with modern instrumentation and laboratory techniques such as high-resolution video analysis, scattering experiments with a particle accelerator, and scanning electron microscopy.

The workshop included five schools from the Capital District, and also two Union alumni, Justin King ’06 and Nicole Sabbatino ’06, who are now teaching at Commack and North Shore high schools on Long Island. Six faculty members from the Department of Physics and Astronomy ran experiments for the workshop, along with two current students, Brandon Bartell ’10 and Tom Perry ’09.

The goals of the workshop are to stimulate students to study physics and pursue careers in science, provide teachers with an exciting and enriching professional development experience, and to establish a network through which the Department of Physics and Astronomy can support local high school physics education. The workshop was supported by the New York State Section of the American Physical Society and the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

(See also the story in the Union college Chronicle)

Society of Physics Students Visits Elementary School

Four members of the Union Chapter of the Society of Physics Students visited Schenectady’s Katharine Burr Blodgett Elementary School on November 6, to perform physics demonstrations for an audience of fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students. The four students, Tom Perry ’09, Shivani Pathak ’10, Hilary Bauer ’11, and Dan Otto ’11, spent about an hour at the school, demonstrating the behavior of liquid nitrogen by freezing a variety of objects, and producing sparks with a van de Graff generator.

The visit was arranged through the Union College Kenney Community Center’s SAIL (Studying Arithmetic in Literature) program.

For more information (and pictures of the event) see the Union College Chronicle

Students Present at Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference

Physics students Anna Gaudette ’09 and Hillary Bauer ’11 presented their work at the Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference at the University of Toronto recently. Both Anna and Hilary worked with Prof. Amanuel, who accompanied them to the meeting.

Gaudette presented on studies of mechanical reinforcements of polymer nanocomposites. Bauer’s work focused on the phase transition of physically restricted molecules in the nano scale. The conference drew 272 delegates from 39 institutions across Canada and the United States.

(For pictures, visit the Union College Chronicle)

Alpher Plaque Dedicated in Olin Building

Union dedicated a bronze plaque this week in honor of Ralph Asher Alpher, a distinguished research professor of physics and astronomy and a pioneering architect of the Big Bang model for the origin of the universe. Alpher died Aug. 12, 2007 at age 86.

[…]Alpher taught at Union from 1986 to 2004 and was director of the Dudley Observatory. He also spent more than 30 years at the GE Research and Development Center in Niskayuna.

In 1948, as a young doctoral student, he wrote the first mathematical model for the creation of the universe and predicted the discovery of cosmic background radiation that proves the Big Bang theory.

Hundreds of people showed up at George Washington University for his dissertation defense, but the work of Alpher and his colleagues went largely unrecognized. In 1965, two radio astronomers in New Jersey who were tuning their equipment stumbled on proof of Alpher’s background radiation and were eventually awarded the Nobel Prize.

While the Nobel Prize eluded Alpher, he collected a host of other prestigious awards and honors, including the National Medal of Science, which is administered by the National Science Foundation and is the highest honor for science.

Read the full story in the Union College Chronicle.

Prof. Newman Authors Textbook


Jay Newman, R. Gordon Gould Professor of Physics, has authored a textbook Physics of the Life Sciences, just published by Springer. The full-color text has its origins in a course developed here at Union College and is designed to show the fundamental connections between physics and modern biology and medicine. With over 900 photos and drawings to illustrate the principles and applications of physics, and a large collection of homework problems for students, the 700 page book, weighing in at almost 5 pounds, is designed for a two semester (or trimester) course in introductory physics.

The text fills a large niche in providing an interdisciplinary book for those who study physics at the college/university level.

For more information about the book, see the Physics of the Life Sciencespage at