Talk: Big physics and big computers – Prof. Kieran Holland


  • When: Thursday, Oct. 27
  • When: 4pm
  • Where: Olson 120
  • Who: Prof. Kieran Holland
  • Title: “Big physics and big computers”

For this week’s talk, we have a real treat: our own Prof. Kieran Holland, an expert at making supercomputers solve his knarly quantum field theory equations so he can better understand the Higgs particle. Come here this exciting talk on his research. (AND:  cookies before the talk!)

Here’s the abstract:

The goal of particle physics is to understand the interactions of fundamental objects at the smallest distances we can experimentally probe, and to ultimately answer the question, could the universe have been different. The newest experiment is the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, where the Higgs boson was discovered in 2012. My research is on using computer simulations to test if a particular model explains why the Higgs boson exists, as well as predicting new particles which the experiment should discover if the model is right. My talk will be at a general undergraduate level.

Talk: Doubleheader today–Tabletop Photons and Oddly Shaped Drums

  • When: Thursday, Oct. 15
  • When: 3pm
  • Where: Olson 120
  • Who: Brian Farr (’17) and Robert Ashby (’18)
  • Title: “Playing with photons on the tabletop / Hearing the shape of a drum”

Two of our students (sophomore Robert Ashby and junior Brian Farr) are beginning their research projects. Come learn about what they have been doing and their ambitious plans with their projects.

Pacific Physics alum’s article – cover story of Physics Today!


In a previous blog post we congratulated our alum, David Pace (B.S. Physics 2002) for receiving the prestigious Landau-Spitzer Award given by the American Physical Society (APS) for his contributions to understanding the physics of plasmas and fusion.

Now Dr. Pace’s article, written with Drs. William W. Heidbrink and Michael A, Van Zeeland titled Keeping fusion plasmas hot is the feature story appearing on the October 2015 cover of Physics Today, the monthly professional journal of the APS. Pacific students and others on campus can access the article by clicking the title link above. Access is free through our library’s subscription when accessing the article from a computer on campus.

David is the first author of the article, which is about understanding the very complex interactions of plasma particles with the strong electromagnetic fields and waves inside the toroidal (bagel-shaped) fusion reactor, called a Tokamak. In the fusion reactions of deuterium and tritium, high energy alpha particles are produced which heat the plasma and help to maintain thermonuclear temperatures required for a self-sustained reactor. However, as the plasma heats, energetic ions can leak from the “magnetic bottle“, which can lower the reaction yield, ablate material from the tokamak walls polluting the plasma, and even damage the reactor vessel.

The article in Physics Today reviews David’s and his collaborator’s work on understanding these complex wave-particle dynamics that will help researchers better control this energy loss mechanism in reactors such as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) currently under construction in the south of France. In fact, if you visit ITER’s website, David’s article is featured as one of the rotating header images/links for the international project.

Wow! Cover of Physics Today   AND   the top of the ITER webpage!  

Congratulations Dr. David Pace  from all of us here at UoP!

I expect it won’t be long before David’s picture is on the “cover of the Rolling Stone”.
(for my students, that’s a reference to a 70’s song by Dr. Hook, from when I was your age)


Monthly Physics Social – Tuesday Oct 6 @ 3pm

Hey Everyone!

Tuesday, Oct. 6, is the monthly Physics Social, where Physics and Engineering-Physics majors and minors get together with faculty and eat homemade treats, talk about news and issues, and hope to win the raffle prize.

Physics Dept. T-Shirt
The retiring Physics Department T-Shirt. The new winning design could be yours!!

On Tuesday’s agenda:

  • Time for the New Physics Department T-Shirt Design Contest !!!

Learn the details and get your Picasso on.
The winner will receive a cool prize, the admiration of your besties, and divine mathematical inspiration while taking the GRE.
Ok. Well, the first two for sure.

  • Notebooks are here.


Last time we took orders for gorgeous Moleskin notebooks so you can keep all your project plans, back-of-the-envelope calculations, geek poetry, and time machine designs in one place. Get used to carrying it with you and writing notes to your future self.

  • Talks

Learn about the upcoming weekly talks for majors. Recent talks have included talks on 3D Printing and Arduinos by Chris Vincent (Physics 2014) and on Getting a job with the UN Office of Space Affairs (Therese Jones).

  • Drone Video of F=ma

If enough people show up, we will walk to the DUC lawn and make our drone video of the human F=ma

See you at  3:00pm Tuesday Oct. 6, in Olson 105.