Otterbein Physics Blog

News And Psuedo-Random Blurts from the Otterbein University Physics Department

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Intro lab shiny new

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big empty room

Robertson and I completed our first refit of the intro labs. They look pretty good! Students are socially distanced in their new positions, and are all conveniently facing away from the instructor. The tables resisted moving, having been locked in place by a decade of floor-waxing, but the physicists ultimately prevailed.
Onward to a new semester!

Written by Nathaniel Tagg

August 21st, 2020 at 4:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Standard Model Gloriously Confirmed Yet Again

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This beautiful plot shows the relation between the fundamental particle masses and the coupling to the Higgs field for heavy fermions (t, b, tau) and gauge bosons (W, Z). The prediction of the Standard Model Higgs boson is the blue dashed line. Marvel at the precision – apart from the muon, which is not well covered by this dataset, the error bars are tiny! The upcoming Run 3 of the Large Hadron Collider should significantly expand these data for the second family: the charm quark and muon, radically shrinking the uncertainty on the latter. Run 3 is currently scheduled to begin in early 2021, so stay tuned!

Written by David Robertson

August 4th, 2020 at 6:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

CUWiP @ Pittsburgh 2020

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I’m just the slightest bit late posting this, but Otterbein physics students Olivia Smith ’22 and Heather Tanner ’20 attended the Conference on Undergraduate Women in Undergraduate Physics (CUWiP) back on January 17-19, 2020. (It seems like forever ago!) This conference was hosted jointly by Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, and Washington and Jefferson College.

For readers of a certain vintage, an Otterbein connection: Mike Pettersen, who was a physics faculty member at Otterbein starting in 1993, moved to “Wash and Jeff” in 2002.

Written by David Robertson

August 4th, 2020 at 5:24 pm

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Starting to blast for DUNE

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On June 23, construction workers carried out the first underground blasting at Sanford Lab for the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility, which will provide the space, infrastructure, and particle beam for DUNE. This prep work paves the way for removing more than 800,000 tons of rock to make space for the gigantic DUNE detectors a mile underground. Researchers are also testing materialsthat will be used in producing the most powerful neutrino beam in the world.
Neat.

https://lbnf-dune.fnal.gov/

Far site caverns

Written by Nathaniel Tagg

June 24th, 2020 at 6:25 pm

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New Paper by Otterbein Alum

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Michael Highman ’17 has published a new paper with former faculty member Aaron Reinhard. Portions of this work were carried out in the Atomic Physics Lab at Otterbein. Michael is currently a PhD student in physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Link to the full paper is here.

Alums, we want to hear from you! Keep the updates coming!

Written by David Robertson

June 2nd, 2020 at 1:56 pm

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Great News! We got the NSF grant!

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Great news at Otterbein, w’ve just been awarded our fourth NSF research grant!

These grants are a huge deal for us. It allows us to continue our work on neutrino oscillation experments, which right now are MicroBooNE and the new DUNE project. We can hire students to work in the summers on these experiments, letting undergraduates get a bite of real, cutting-edge science, working in international collaborations full of smart, dedicated physicists and engineers and computer scientists. The grant pays for travel, mostly to Fermi National Accelerator Lab near Chicago, where these experments are hosted. It pays real salaries for the students, so they can concentrateo on the science. It pays for computers and equipment so we can make meaningful contributions.

I’ve been posting about MicroBooNE for years: it’s a medium-sized experiment that was an important technology prototype for large-scale liquid argon time projection chambers. It’s running at Fermilab. (Well, actually it’s in stand-by mode at Fermilab; things on hiatus during the COVID lockdown.) We’ve got tons of data in the can now and the first analyses are starting to come out this summer describing what we’re seeing. If MicroBooNE is successful, we can help unwrap the mystery at the core of the LSND/MiniBooNE anomolies: where those experiments showing us new particle physics, or did they misunderstand neutrino/nucleus interactions? Or something else?

DUNE is the new one, and it’s big. Half a billion dollars big. We’re talking about a brand new neutrino beam, brighter than ever, cutting through 1300 kilometers of the earth to get to a detector in South Dakota. We’re talking about 70 kilotons of liquid argon, held in tanks more than a mile underground, and continuously swept of electrons using a 500 kV voltage supply, read out onto razor-thin piano wires that are seriously too many to count. It’s going to be glorious: it’s the neutrino machine my colleagues and I have been dreaming about for 30 years… except back then we had no idea how great the images would be. It’s the same technology as MicroBooNE, which has been delivering stuff like this:

A neutrino interaction in MicroBooNE, blissfully free from cosmic rays. The invisible neutrino came from the left. The track going down and right is probably a muon; the one up and right probably a charged pion. In between them you can see a gap where a neutral particle travelled, then an electron-positron pair being created . There’s two of them: that’s a good candidate for a neutral pion. And you can see every detail.

There is a ton of terrible stuff going on in the world right now, so it’s nice to get a victory.

Onward!

Written by Nathaniel Tagg

June 2nd, 2020 at 10:44 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Adjusting to the new reality…

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Chaos in the intro lab after the assembly of ~180 equipment kits for at-home labs in PHYS 1600 and 1200. Lab activities covered magnetism, induction, and optics.

Written by David Robertson

April 18th, 2020 at 5:04 pm

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Otterbein Nobel Symposium 2019

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On November 12, Otterbein held a symposium on the 2019 Nobel Prizes, organized by Prof. Aida Odobasic of the Department of Business, Accounting, and Economics. Prof. Robertson presented the Physics prize, which this year went to Jim Peebles (1/2) for his work on theories of cosmology, and to Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz (1/4 each) for their discovery of an extra-solar planet orbiting a solar-type star. Profs. Dean Johnston (Chemistry) and Jennifer Bennett (Biology and Earth Science) discussed the Chemistry and Medicine/Physiology prizes. Dr. Odobasic spoke about the Economics prize. The event was a great success and we hope it will be repeated in coming years.

Written by David Robertson

January 4th, 2020 at 11:05 pm

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Stephan Frank wins Teaching Award!

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Dr. Stephan Frank, adjunct faculty member in the Physics Department, has won this year’s Part Time Faculty Teaching Award for General Education courses :-). Stephan has been teaching at Otterbein since the fall of 2012, and has contributed to the Integrative Studies program (teaching astronomy) as well as in general physics. He is an astronomer by training, with a Ph.D. from OSU and postdoctoral experience at the University of Marseille, in France. He is originally from Germany, having obtained his undergraduate degree at the University of Heidelberg.

Stephan is a great teacher and a valued colleague, and we congratulate him!

Written by David Robertson

January 4th, 2020 at 10:41 pm

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Recent Theory Group Publications

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Written by David Robertson

January 4th, 2020 at 10:11 pm

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