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Spring 2021

October 22, 2021 (Friday) 4:00-5:00p.m. 
Speaker: Jens Boos, William & Mary Physics
Host: M. Sher
Title: So black holes exist. Now what?
Abstract: The 2020 Nobel prize was awarded for the theoretical prediction of black holes and the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy. Three years prior, in 2017, it was awarded for the discovery of gravitational waves caused by the collision of two astrophysical black holes. We even have a photo of a black hole. So, while we still cannot poke a black hole with a stick to see what it does, there is ever-increasing evidence that these fascinating objects really exist in our Universe.

But what does that mean? Where can we go from here?

After a brief introduction to the basic principles of General Relativity and black hole physics, I will explore current and future research directions in black hole physics. On the experimental side this includes testing Einstein’s theory of gravity with black hole shadows, the search for new ultralight particles from gravitational wave signals, the search for hypothetical microstructures close to black hole horizons, and more. On the theoretical side, black holes are expected to radiate and eventually decay, once quantum aspects are considered, with fascinating implications for the interplay of black holes and quantum information.

We are probably just at the beginning of a new era of black hole research, now that these enigmatic objects have been observed in our Universe, and it will be exciting to see what new insights the next decades will bring, both experimental and theoretical.

October 29, 2021 (Friday) 4:00-5:00p.m. 
Speaker: Laurie McNeil, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Host: M. Sher
Abstract: All of us were once science and engineering students before we became professors.  We know that the core of our learning took place when we figured out how to apply technical concepts as we wrestled with solving problems, not when our instructors lectured at us.  The studio mode of instruction reflects this reality.  In traditional lecture-based teaching the instructor transfers information in the classroom and the students struggle on their own to apply that information to specific situations (in homework).  Studio-based instruction reverses this—the information transfer takes place outside of class, and class time is used for the students to work collaboratively as they engage in structured hands-on, minds-on application of that information while the instructor provides support.  At UNC-CH we have transformed all of our introductory physics courses to use studio-based pedagogy, and as a result we have seen impressive gains in student understanding.  This has led us to begin to transform the way we teach upper-division courses as well.  I will describe how my department teaches now, and how we accomplished this large-scale transformation.  

November 5, 2021 (Friday) 4:00-5:00p.m. 
Speaker: Mumtaz Qazilbash, William & Mary Physics
Host: M. Sher
Title: TBD