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Previous talks archive
Non-Euclidean Geometry in Relativity
Non-euclidean geometry is the mathematics that analyses any space which does not obey the axioms of the standard, euclidian one. This implies an extraordinary difficulty in visualising such a geometry. A particular difficulty arises in Relativity, and the aim of this talk is to illustrate the peculiarity of spaces governed by the axioms of General Relativity, with the help of a rather uncommon, detailed example through which one can develop an intuition for this field – a rotating ring.
To land Lyosha on Luna: the secret Soviet moon program
While NASA directed its efforts at putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade, the Soviet Union didn't even seem to be competing. But many years later, information declassified amid Gorbachev-era reforms revealed a colossal lunar program, which had been hastily dissolved and swept under the rug after several launch failures and the successful American moon landings. What would a crewed Soviet moon mission have looked like? And why did the USSR, with its huge initial lead in the conquest of space, lose the race to put a man on the moon? My talk will be an exploration of the little-known story of the Soviet lunar program: from the early probes swinging by the moon and the first pictures of its far side (a mission accidentally helped by an American cereal company), to the increasingly desperate attempts at a crewed flight and the final showdown between an American crew and a Soviet probe, as well as the immense technical challenges, personal and political conflicts, triumphs, explosions and tragedies faced along the way.
The Role of Continuity in Topology
Throughout a physicist's undergraduate education, pure maths is often put together as ‘mathematical methods’ courses, rushing through the required maths, drowning the reader in definitions and theorems. This only makes your common physicist less willing to leave their protected non-rigorous bubble. In this presentation, I will change that by taking a visual tour of quite an abstract area of maths - topology. Brought to life by Euler, topology is very similar to playing with play-doh, as it studies structures preserved under deformations. I will begin my presentation with a reminder of what a continuous function is and why it should be generalised. Then, I will introduce the concept of topological spaces, and use the previously developed ideas of continuity to define topological invariants. For example connectedness, Hausdorffness and even some physical invariants. In the end, it will only seem natural that a coffee cup and doughnut are really the same thing.
Evolution of Car Engines in the Japanese Domestic Market
Over the course of history, humans have been thinking of different ways to travel more efficiently. The most notable change in the way travel is perceived happened during the 20th century, when cars came into global use. They provided the average citizen with a reliable and exciting way of everyday transport. But the technological marvel also came with an economic downside, different in each part of the world. By the end of the 20th century, the Japanese government passed a road tax, which was greatly influenced by the engine displacement, making cars with bigger engines more expensive. In my presentation I will talk about how some Japanese car manufacturers worked their way around this road tax, by squeezing every last drop of power from low-displacement engines, and what innovative methods they used to do so.
In this project, the author sets out to code a 2d simulation of the moon's behaviour after an extremely dense unknown entity travelling at sub-relativistic speed crashes into it (as described in "Seveneves"). The simulation will essentially be an N-body inelastic collision simulation in the frame of the moon's rotation about the earth. The process of creating the program will be discussed (algorithm choice, associated errors and overall structure of the code), followed by an interpretation of the results. It is hoped that the simulation will point towards the "white sky" phenomenon described in the aforementioned novel. At the end of the talk, a brief discussion of possible extensions of the simulation to 3 dimensions and/or accounting for the finer properties of the N-bodies.
As a collection of perfectly timed throws at given heights, toss juggling inspired a combinatorial problem of finding all possible repeating patterns - juggling tricks - one can perform with a given number of hands and balls. First considered by Claude Shannon, the mathematical description of a juggler has since grown to the level of sophistication of modern discrete mathematics. In my talk, I will present both the theory and practice of juggling notation and basic theorems that follow from it.
Fields, Antiparticles and All That
The 2 great pillars of modern physics are Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. They were wed together for the first time in 1928 by P.A.M. Dirac. Out of them comes out a beautiful union which forces upon us great changes in the way we perceive the world. In the talk I will present how the fundamental principles of the above 2 theories leads us, almost uniquely, to a theory of quantized fields. We shall see that Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry as evidenced in the prediction of existence of antimatter.
Lyndon B Johnson: Power, politics, and the race to space.
An exploration of the character of Lyndon B Johnson, a man who would ultimately have an immense impact on the allocation of scientific funds in the US, through his revolutionary and incredibly corrupt 1948 senate campaign.
A survey of the general features and the history of cults
How and when cults arise, how they recruit followers, how they maintain followers and survive in hostile countries and influence the countries in which they live. These points will be illustrated by example from the some notable cults from history e.g. Aum Shinrikyo, Heaven's Gate and Scientology.
Coding a Brain
How do you programme a computer to learn? Many programming problems in pattern recognition can be solved by training an artificial neural network, rather than manually coding identification techniques ourselves. In this talk I hope to introduce the basis of a neural network to gain an understanding about how it works at a basic level, demonstrate some basic issues and solutions via simple examples as well as discuss more generally about them.
An introduction to superconducting magnets
Where and why do we use superconducting magnets, and what unique design challenges do they pose? In this talk I will give an introduction to the properties of superconductors, and to the design, construction and operation of superconducting magnets, illustrated by their use in the LHC. I will also show you what happens when things go wrong...
The problem of induction
My presentation is about what is known as the problem of induction in philosophy. Inductive methods of inference are essential in science to the extent that all scientific theories are supported by induction. Two philosophical arguments - the old problem/riddle of induction and the new problem/riddle of induction are supposed to show that it is much harder than most people would expect, if not impossible, to formally justify inductive methods. If one accepts one of these arguments, then one has no more formal justification for believing inductive inferences than one has for believing inferences made from guessing. This seems to suggest that I am no more justified in believing that the kind food I have eaten my entire life will continue to be nourishing tomorrow than I am justified in believing that the same kind of food will be poisonous tomorrow...
Transistors : Past, Present, and Future
In the 1950s, the first transistor radios had less than 10 transistors, yet today several million could sit on a chip less than a micron wide. This presentation will discuss the invention of the transistor, the innovations which revolutionized their usage, and the future of the technology that defined the last half decade.