Merton Presentations 2014


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 - 16:30Jasper RussellRavin Jain
16:30 - 17:00Elizabeth TraynorJames Matthews
17:00 - 17:30Samuel ArtigolleTiffany Brydges
17:30 - 18:00Sergejs LukanihinsAlexander Moore

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

Titles and Abstracts


Self-Organized Criticality

It has been observed that many complex dynamical systems exhibit certain common features, including scale invariant spatio-temporal behaviour and 1/f noise in the power spectrum. I will introduce the theory of self-organized criticality (SOC), which aims to explain these behaviours. I intend to give a qualitative explanation of how SOC could arise for a system which is slowly driven and has dominant internal interactions. I will then explain the sandpile model introduced in the 1987 paper by Wiesenfeld et al. and discuss the extent to which it is in agreement with experiment. Finally, I shall conclude by examining whether or not SOC can account for the behaviour of a variety of other real dynamical systems.


Quantum Mechanics and Photosynthesis: The Tree of Superimposed Knowledge?

This talk will explore the importance of quantum mechanics in photosynthesis. It was long thought that classical physics accurately described the process of energy transfer in photosynthesis, however this view is now being challenged and it is thought quantum mechanics plays a crucial role. I will explore new theories concerning the relevance of quantum mechanics in photosynthesis and the experimental evidence supporting them, and hope to cover possible implications for new technology.


Mother Earth Will Kill Us All

In this talk I shall examine some of the various ways in which large scale destruction of life might occur due to natural processes. The areas covered will include climate change, volcanic activity, and variations in the Earth’s magnetic field. I hope to cover the relative risks posed by each of these things, including the scientific background, the plausibility of such an event occurring, and the scale of catastrophe that each would cause. I will also consider the timescale on which these things would happen, in order to evaluate the risk of death and destruction to us as individuals, to Merton College, and to mankind as a whole. Due to the widely disputed nature of some of these topics, I shall also consider varying viewpoints on each area, and examine the scientific evidence behind these viewpoints.


Liquid Crystals

Liquid crystals are to familiar to many due to their use in electronic displays.However, they have other practical uses, and are also commonly found in nature. I willlook at the fundamental properties of liquid crystals, and how their inherentanisotropy gives rise to interesting optical, mechanical and electromagnetic properties. I will then aim show how these properties are used in practical applications, not onlyin displays but also thermometers and tuneable filters. I will end with examples of how their physical properties can give rise to complex and beautiful patterns.


Black Holes, Information Paradox and the Firewall Debate

This talk will cover our evolving understanding of the nature of Black Holes. Starting from their initial prediction, have represented one the few areas where General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics overlap. This is exemplified by the Information Loss Paradox that was shown through Hawking radiation. My aim will be to discuss the debate surrounding the most recent attempt to resolve this paradox: the Firewall. I will briefly explain the semiclassical interpretation of Black Holes and the previously accepted solution of the paradox through complementarity. Then, I will discuss the need for a deviation from complementarity, the principles of the Firewall, and the responses to this resolution of the paradox. If possible, I will attempt to speak on the most up to date information regarding this ongoing debate.


The Strike of Enlightenment: exploring the mysterious phenomenon of lightning

Mankind has often be awed by the ferocious power of bolts of electricity from the heavens but our understanding of lightning has come a long way since Benjamin Franklin experimented with kites in thunderstorms. I will attempt to explain how and why lightning originates in our atmosphere and why it is not just found in thunderstorms, or even localised just to Earth. I will then go on to distinguish between types of natural lightning before examining what actually happens in the atmosphere during an electrical discharge and how this has been recreated in the laboratory, leading to artificial lightning. I shall comment on theories concerning the harnessing of power from natural lightning before concluding with a brief foray into the elusive nature of ball lightning, centred on recent experiments carried out to probe its behaviour. I might even answer the million dollar question: does lightning strike twice?


A Guide to Chalksmanship

In the Department of Physics at Oxford, the vast majority of teaching is done with the help of chalk and blackboards. Each lecturer has their own preference as to the role that the blackboard plays; some use it in tandem with projected PowerPoint slides, perhaps showing the steps of a derivation, whilst others forgo any digital aids whatsoever and exclude themselves to using only the blackboard. The skill with which lecturers wield and use chalk varies; some are prone to having small pieces breaking off whenever they write, whilst others seem to be able to reproduce the same handwriting regardless of the size or shape of the particular piece in their hand. I aim to investigate some of the factors that affect how chalk behaves as it is being used, and suggest an optimal method with which blackboard-writing should be approached. If time permits, I may also investigate a method that allows a user to draw dashed lines quickly (popularised as the 'Walter Lewin' method), and see how such a process may be explained.


Quantum dots

Quantum dots are semiconductor nanocrystals that display unique optical and electrical properties due to the quantum confinement effect. The aim of this talk is to briefly introduce the concept of quantum dots and their applications in various fields.

I will start by outlining a fairly simple model that explains the physical properties of quantum dots, namely theband-gap dependence on the size of the dot and the quantization of electron energy levels. I will then briefly cover the various ways of manufacturing quantum dots. Finally, I will look in some detail at the applications of quantum dots in science and technology, which include particle and cell tracking in biology, single electron transistors, solar cells, quantum dot LEDs and quantum dot displays. I may also cover the possibility of using quantum dots as qubits for quantum computing.