Merton Presentations 2015


Week 3, Saturday: Deadline for titles and abstracts submissions. 

Week 6, Tuesday and Wednesday 16:00-18:00 (Fitzjames 1): Rehearsals. 

Tuesday Wednesday
16:00 - 16:30Isabelle Naylor
16:30 - 17:00Thomas Hornigold Mantas Abazorius
17:00 - 17:30Adam Stanway David Felce
17:30 - 18:00Glenn Wagner Chris Hamilton

Week 8, Tuesday 16:00-19:00 (Fitzjames 1): Final presentations.

Titles and Abstracts


Nonlinear chemical dynamics: oscillations and chaos

Chemical reactions are often thought of as the transformation of matter, where some substances are used up, while others are created. The concentration of reactants decreases, while the concentration of products increases, until the system reaches a fixed equilibrium. However, not all chemical systems behave in such a simple manner. This presentation will explore the more complex behaviours that can be exhibited. I will start by talking about oscillatory reactions, and then look at how, under special conditions, chaotic behaviour can be observed. Finally, I will show that in excitable media, oscillatory behaviour can lead to the formation of travelling waves.


Chaos is come again: A non-linear tour from Othello to Edward Lorenz to Mariah Carey

In this talk, I will give a brief history of the concept of chaos, formally introduce chaotic dynamical systems, and discuss their prevalence in nature. Using the example of the nonlinear Lorenz equations I will show how we can not only categorise and understand chaotic systems, but how we can use their inherent unpredictability to our advantage. Finally, I will treat my audience to what is undoubtedly the pinnacle of modern scientific achievement - the use of a chaotic circuit to secretly transmit a Mariah Carey song.


Static and Silence - The Cosmic Microwave Background

A few percent of the fuzz familiar to analogue TV users is in fact the remnant of the conditions in the early Universe from long before the formation of stars. Within this ‘background noise’ lies the blueprint for the distribution of matter on the grandest scale; galaxies and superclusters. The cosmic microwave background radiation, discovered accidentally in 1965, has provided information from which cosmologists can attempt to construct a timeline of the early Universe; it provides strong evidence for the Big Bang theory, and its inherent anisotropies are responsible for slight inhomogeneities in the Universe; as such inhomogeneous aberrations, we should all be fascinated by it! In this talk I will describe the discovery and outline the significance of this remarkable phenomenon, and the inferences that we have been able to make from studying it; if time permits, I will discuss its relation to the Lambda Cold Dark Matter model of cosmology and possible future measurements attempting to confirm the existence of gravitational waves. 


The Majorana Fermion

The Majorana particle is a particle that is its own antiparticle, Ettore Majorana hypothesized its existence in 1937 but only recently the experiments detected the behavior associated with this fermion. I will talk about the experiments in Netherlands (2012) and Princeton (2013) where a majorana type particle was found using superconductors at extremely low temperatures.  I will also present the difficulties associated with the detection of such particles. This will include its quantum properties and the theory that predicts its existence. The talk will also cover the possible applications of the particle in quantum computing as well as how its properties could explain the behaviour of neutrinos and the origins of dark matter.


Physics and Epistemology: Can we ever really know anything?

Many of the greatest thinkers in the history of Physics; such as Newton, Hooke and to some extent Einstein, could in fact be considered 'Natural Philosophers' rather than 'physicists'; concerned not just with the how and why of what we see around us in the observable universe, but also with how and why we *can* examine the world around us. The fact that we seem to be able to describe the natural world using mathematics and empirical (or sensory, experiential) evidence is fascinating and mysterious, and a topic of hot debate amongst epistemological philosophers and scientists alike. I intend to examine the extent to which an apparently logically sound theory known as the 'Problem of Induction', undermines claims of scientifically discerned 'knowledge', and also the extent to which areas of debate and subjectivity within Physics (such as the measurement problem) can exist, despite the fact that Physics intends to construct absolute and universally applicable theories to describe nature.


Pushing the envelope – the limits of aerodynamics

In this talk I will begin with a brief account of the aerodynamic force of lift, and the characteristics of a typical aerofoil. I will proceed to consider how the airflow over an aerofoil can be disrupted, and the effects this can have on the lifting characteristics. Lastly I will consider regimes of extreme velocity and density and the difficulties and dangers they pose to aircraft operating within them. If there is time I may touch on design steps which can be taken to minimize these difficulties.


The Casimir effect

The Casimir effect is a quantum mechanical effect which demonstrates that the vacuum in quantum field theory is far from empty. I will start with a short outline of the history of the Casimir effect, before deriving the formula for the force between two parallel conducting plates in vacuum. Then I would like to briefly discuss the mathematical process of renormalization, which arises in this context when dealing with infinities. Next, I will describe the experiments which were conducted to measure the Casimir force, and focus on the 1997 measurement by S. Lamoreaux. We will also look at a different, but related effect: the dynamical Casimir effect, which was experimentally verified in 2001. In this case the plates are accelerating and this causes photons to be emitted from the vacuum. I will end with possible applications of the Casimir effect in physics research and in technology and then give an outlook.