The University Record, October 9, 1995

Check out what’s new in physics

By Sally Pobojewski
News and Information Services

Everything you always wanted to know about physics, but were afraid to ask, will be covered in a series of multimedia lectures to be presented by U-M research fellows starting Saturday (Oct. 14). Designed for general audiences, the lectures are an opportunity to hear physicists discuss their work in easy-to-understand, non-technical terms.

All lectures in the series will take place 10:30–11:30 a.m. in Room 335, West Engineering Building. The lectures are free and open to the public. High school students are especially encouraged to attend.

“Our goal is to share the excitement of contemporary research in physics with people who appreciate the thrill of discovery and its importance to their daily lives,” says Dante E. Amidei, associate professor of physics, who helped organize the lecture program.

“In addition, we know that it is the folks out there who pay the bills, and we wanted to find a way to let them know what their research dollars are buying and why the work is important,” Amidei says. “We selected post-doctoral researchers to give the lectures because they are the people doing the bulk of the hands-on work, living and dying over these problems, and we know they can communicate the thrill of scientific research in a particularly exciting and intimate way.”

The Saturday morning lecture series is sponsored by the Department of Physics and M. Lois Tiffany of Ann Arbor, who received her Ph.D. in physics from the U-M in 1946. Lectures, speakers and topics scheduled for the fall term are:

Medical Physics & Medical Imaging

Robert Welsh, physics research fellow.

Oct. 14: From diagnostic tools to surgical aids to cancer therapy, physics plays a fundamental role in modern medicine. An overview of current medical imaging techniques with an insider’s explanation of how magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) works.

Oct. 21: How new advances in fundamental physics research are being applied to medicine. One example, now being developed at the U-M, has potential for dramatic improvements in medical imaging.

Oct. 28: In conjunction with the Department of Radiology, a tour of an MRI facility and live on-line demonstrations of an imaging procedure.

Cosmic Ray Physics

Stephane Coutu, physics research fellow.

Nov. 4: A comprehensive introduction to the physics of cosmic rays, a stew of particles which originated millions of years ago in deep space and now bombard the Earth.

Nov. 11: How astrophysicists use balloons positioned at the edge of Earth’s atmosphere to study anti-matter in cosmic rays. Includes footage of a research balloon launch and recovery and a visit to the lab to view experimental hardware recovered from last summer’s flight.

Nov. 18: Are there particles in cosmic rays which can penetrate beneath a mountain? A description of an experiment deep under the Italian Appenines—what it does and does not see.

Dark Matter: The Search for the Missing 90 Percent of the Universe

Shawn McKee, physics research fellow.

Dec. 2: About 90 percent of the matter in the universe seems to be invisible. We know it is there, but don’t know what it is. An introduction to the puzzle of dark matter with an overview of current ideas and ongoing experiments.

Dec. 9: A discussion of McKee’s current research—including high-altitude balloon flights and accelerator-based searches for dark matter. McKee also will discuss his experiment to study the properties of an ephemeral particle called the tau-neutrino.