Otterbein Physics Blog

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

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

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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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Alumni News

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Keep the updates coming!

Written by David Robertson

January 4th, 2020 at 9:59 pm

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Public Lecture at the Bexley Public Library

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Written by David Robertson

July 23rd, 2019 at 10:23 am

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Murray Gell-Mann (1929-2019)

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Murray Gell-Mann, a titan of physics in the 20th century, died last Friday at age 89.

He was probably best known for proposing the existence of, and naming, “quarks,” the elementary particles that bind together to form protons, neutrons, and other strongly-interacting particles. (The name comes from Finnegan’s Wake: “Three quarks for Muster Mark.”) For this work he received the 1969 Nobel Prize for Physics. But he made many other seminal contributions as well, and in the mid-20th century Caltech, where he and Richard Feynman were on the faculty, was arguably the leading center for theoretical physics in the world.

I never met him personally, though I saw him give talks on a couple of occasions. He was scrupulous in pronouncing names correctly, e.g., “Einshtein.” The joke was that Gell-Man had eight brains, and each one was smarter than you. Another story in which he makes an appearance: When his student Sidney Coleman (also a legend of theoretical physics) was applying for a job he wrote a letter that said, “Coleman knows more about quantum field theory than anyone in the world except Dick Feynman.” Feynman’s letter said, “Coleman knows more about quantum field theory than anyone in the world except me.” So Gell-Mann and Feynman agreed on at least one thing.

Written by David Robertson

May 30th, 2019 at 10:08 am

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BAH Dark Matter Theory

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I saw this in London. The video is timestamped for the winning presentation, but all of it was hilarious.

Written by Nathaniel Tagg

April 3rd, 2019 at 9:05 am

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