Physics and Astronomy
Department Chair:
Yumi Ijiri

Administrative Assistant:
Diane Doman

Department Email:

Phone: (440) 775-8330
Fax: (440) 775-6379

Wright Laboratory of Physics
110 N. Professor St.
Oberlin, OH, 44074

Physics and Astronomy Lecture Series

Physics and Astronomy Lecture Series



25 (Thursday) 4:35 pm

Speaker:  Dan Stinebring, Francis D. Federighi Professor of Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Oberlin College
Title:  Detecting Gravitational Waves from Supermassive Black Hole Binaries
Abstract:  Gravitational waves (GW) have never been directly detected, and the ability to do so will revolutionize astrophysics.  In particular, we will be able to directly observe GW radiation from some of the most extreme events in the universe.  Astronomers worldwide are involved in an effort to directly detect GWs using millisecond pulsars located throughout our Galaxy.  I will review the basic principles of operation and the status of this effort.  Our contribution at Oberlin focuses on correcting the pulsar signal for its passage through non-empty interstellar space.  I will highlight some of our recent results, including work done with the Dutch LOFAR telescope this past year.
Location:  Wright 201


8 (Wednesday) 4:35 pm

Speaker:  Marie Rinkoski Spangler, '02, Senior Market Analyst, Constellation Energy
Title:  Integrating Intermittent Renewable Generation on Bulk Electric Systems

Wind and solar generators are often called variable or intermittent sources as their output is dependent on the availability of wind and sun.  Electric power system operators face a challenge in smoothly integrating the variable output from wind and solar generators with existing sources and sinks on the grid without compromising power quality, reliability, or the infrastructure of the system.  Operators must continuously match output from many electric generators (sources) to electricity demand at many end-use sites (sinks), a process that becomes more difficult with high levels of unpredictable and/or undispatchable sources. 

Over the last five years, as wind and solar generators have become a more significant fraction of available generating capacity in many regions of North America, this challenge has driven development in generation technology, storage technology, forecasting tools, and coordination among system operators.

Location:  Wright 201


6 (Thursday) 4:35 pm

Speaker:  Rob Owen, Assistant Professor of Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Oberlin College
Title:  Wormholes, black holes, and the structure of spacetime in general relativity: the science of Interstellar
Abstract: General relativity presents a radical restructuring of our concepts of space and time, a restructuring that even the most fanciful science fiction often has a difficult time capturing. The upcoming film Interstellar, directed by Christopher Nolan and co-produced by theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, was designed to capture this radically new (yet century old) picture of spacetime in a scientifically accurate way. In this talk, I'll describe some of the surprising features of general relativity that promise to find their way into this blockbuster movie, and a few of the technical challenges inherent in visualizing these features accurately, even with state of the art computer graphics.
Location:  Wright 201


4 (Thursday) 4:35 pm

Speaker:  Benjamin Schumacher, Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, Kenyon College
Title:  Landauer's principle, fluctuations and the Second Law
Abstract: Maxwell's demon cannot achieve a violation of the Second Law of thermodynamics because of the thermodynamic cost of information erasure (known as Landauer's principle).  This suggests a new statement of the Second Law, one that is provably equivalent to more familiar versions:  No process can have as its sole result the erasure of information.  The connection between information and thermodynamics is made even stronger by some recent theorems in non-equilibrium statistical mechanics.  The amazing Jarzynski identity, which governs the amount of work done in a non-equilibrium process, can be generalized in a natural way to encompass processes that either acquire or dispose of information.  Numerical experiments confirm this new information identity.
Location:  Wright 201

Department of Physics and Astronomy Lecture Series speakers from past years.