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Winter 2011

02/05/2011 | A Brief History of Telling Time -- Aaron Leanhardt (U-M Geological Sciences)

Every day we use clocks to tell us when we have arrived somewhere, but high-precision clocks are also used to tell us where that place is. This talk will summarize the evolution of clocks and more broadly describe the art of high-precision measurements.  

02/12/2011 | Ice and Water -- Henry Pollack (U-M Atmospheric, Oceanic & Space Sciences)

As Earth's climate warms, many of the planet's glaciers and polar ice sheets will be lost, with substantial impacts on agriculture, municipal water supplies, and sea level.

02/19/2011 | The Discovery of Liquid Saline Water on Mars -- Nilton O. Renno (U-M Naval Architecture & Marine Engineering)

Determining if life ever existed on another planet is one of the main goals of space exploration. Since it is believed that liquid water is a basic ingredient for life, an important step in the search for extraterrestrial life is to determine if liquid water exists in other planets. The recent discoveries of liquid saline water or brines, and evidence for methane on Mars have excited the science community by reviving the possibility of extant microbial life in this nearby planet. This talk will describe the discovery of evidence for liquid water by Phoenix and new photometric and spectral evidence that liquid saline water exists on Mars.

03/12/2011 | Enhancing Flow Instabilities to Harness Hydrokinetic Energy -- Michael Bernitsas (U-M Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)

Marine hydrokinetic energy is abundant, clean, renewable, and worldwide available. Can we harness such a treasure and convert it to affordable electricity in a simple yet environmentally compatible way, i.e. without using dams/turbines? We will learn about the research and development of the VIVACE Converter, from concept to prototype testing in the St. Clair River. Professor Bernitsas will show how fundamental developments in cylinder-hydrodynamics discovered in the Marine Renewable Energy Laboratory were implemented in design to achieve power density about 15,000 times that of wind farms. The underlying concept is to enhance natural flow instabilities (VIV, galloping, buffeting) by mimicking kinematics of fish-schools in a simple yet effective way. VIVACE is highly scalable with applications from 1Watt to 100’s of MWatts.

03/19/2011 | Taming the Killer Lakes of Africa -- George Kling (U-M Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)

In the 1980s two lakes in Cameroon, West Africa, exploded and killed about 2000 people. It was found that these lakes had accumulated massive amounts of carbon dioxide, which was then released in a cloud that suffocated people up to 13 miles away. Controlled mitigation of these natural hazards is possible, and one lake has a store of natural gas (methane) worth >$100M if it can be extracted safely.

03/26/2011 | New Physics at the LHC: A Theorist's Perspective -- Moira Gresham (U-M Physics)

What are the most fundamental constituents of matter and what laws govern their behavior? We will briefly review our best-tested answers to these particle physics questions. More excitingly, we will discuss several reasons to think that "new" particle physics--hitherto inaccessible or untested--will be discovered at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator.

04/02/2011 | Nature’s Magic -- Fred Becchetti (U-M Physics)

In this talk, Professor Becchetti will illustrate some of Nature's magic (and in particular some amazing physics phenomena ) using many of the effects and illusions often performed by professional magicians.

04/09/2011 | Collider Physics -- Jianming Qian (U-M Physics)

Particle physicists are increasingly relying on high-energy colliders to recreate the conditions of early Universe after the big bang. Massive detectors are built to study collisions produced by these colliders. In this lecture, Professor Qian will discuss the principles of high-energy colliders and particle detection as well as the questions these experiments are trying to answer.

04/16/2011 | What Does the Nuclear Reactor Accident in Japan Mean for Our Energy Future? -- James Wells (U-M Physics)

The nuclear power plant accident in Japan has caused widespread rethinking of our energy future. This talk aims to contribute to that discussion. We shall first review the three most famous nuclear power plant accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima Daiichi. In addition to the risks that were realized by these accidents, we shall also discuss other as yet unrealized risks. Despite these risks, there are strong arguments for continuing to pursue nuclear energy. This necessarily involves considering the alternatives for our energy future, and as we shall see, there is likely a heavy price to pay one way or another to fulfill our energy desires.