18th May 2018 at 14.15 in E204: Mark Hindmarsh

Our final colloquium for the spring semester will be held on 18th May. Our speaker will be Mark Hindmarsh, professor of theoretical physics at the University of Sussex, and visiting professor at Helsinki. His work is principally concerned with the exciting topic of gravitational waves produced in the early universe, and so the title of his talk is Gravitational waves from the Big Bang. Exceptionally, his talk will be in E204.

Here is his abstract:

About 10 picoseconds after the beginning of the Universe, the Higgs field turned on. In extensions of the Standard Model of particle physics, this could have been a first order phase transition, with bubbles of the Higgs phase expanding and colliding at relativistic speeds.  I will discuss how the Higgs “fizz” generates gravitational radiation, prospects for observing the radiation at the future space-based gravitational wave detector LISA, and outline how LISA complements the LHC as a probe of physics beyond the Standard Model.

After the 30 minute talk, there will be a cocktail reception. Welcome!

28th March: Stephen Hawking Symposium

On Wednesday 28th of March we will hold a special event to celebrate the life, work and influence of Stephen Hawking. Coffee will be served from 16.00, then we will have a series of talks by experts from across the university: Kari EnqvistEsko Keski-Vakkuri, Paavo Pylkkänen and Pentti Tienari, chaired by Director of the Helsinki Institute of Physics Katri Huitu. The talks will start at 16.30 in D101, Physicum, and the programme is expected to finish at 18.00. The talks will be accessible to a general audience. Welcome!

During this event (in particular during the coffee 16.00-16.30 and after the discussion 18.00-18.30) we will have a “memorial booth” in the Physicum lobby. We invite everyone to come and pay their respect to Hawking through a Hawking-related story: how his work has inspired you to pursue a career in Physics, or any other short anecdote about Hawking and his legacy. The stories will be filmed and collected into a “Hawking memorial video” from the Department of Physics in collaboration with The Science Basement.

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13th April 2018 at 14.15 in D101: Ilpo Vattulainen

Our fourth colloquium again features a new professor giving a first talk to their peers in Kumpula. On 13th April Ilpo Vattulainen will speak about his work and how it connects physics to the life sciences, in a talk titled A physicist’s random walk in the life sciences.

Here is his abstract:

We have five primitive needs: food, warmth, security, pleasure, and health. In this colloquium, we will discuss how physical sciences can reveal secrets related to health. Quite surprisingly it appears that we know quite little about biological structures and phenomena that maintain our health, yet we often take them for granted. Our skin protects us from forbidden substances, however its structure is still a genuine mystery. The surface of our eyes protects us from the dry eye syndrome, but we do not understand how. The beating of our heart keeps us alive, yet we do not fully understand how the signaling in our cells controls the beat. Given how fascinating it is to examine these challenges, it is a true privilege to be a physicist: the toolbox of physics provides the means to reveal the principles and mechanisms that nature uses to maintain life and foster our health.

After the 30 minute talk, there will be a cocktail reception. Welcome!

16th March 2018 at 14.15 in D101: Minna Palmroth

Our third colloquium of 2018 will take place on 16th March. Giving an inaugural lecture to the Department will be Minna Palmroth, Professor of Computational Space Physics and Director of the new Finnish Centre of Excellence in Research of Sustainable Space.

Her talk, titled Space is the new black!, will discuss exactly those topics that will be the focus of the new Centre of Excellence, including the societal and economic impact of space physics research.

Here is her abstract:

We are entering an age, where increasing numbers of players reach towards space. In addition to the old players – countries and space agencies, the new kids on the block are commercial companies, which build and launch small satellites to harness the economic potential of space. We are experiencing this global change also in Finland, as two new startup companies are basing their business strategies on satellites. What does this mean in terms of utilisation of space? At least the new satellites will eventually contribute to the more than 5000 tons of debris existing in space already. Once on orbit, those new spacecraft will encounter a dynamic environment, controlled by external drivers and internal processes. This talk reviews the rapid change that space has experienced over the last couple of years, and discuss the consequences and potential scientific benefits of this change.

After the 30 minute talk, there will be a cocktail reception. Welcome!

Update 6.4.2018: You can watch a video of Minna’s talk here:

16th February 2018 at 14.15 in D101: Jaakko Lehtinen

Our second colloquium of 2018 will be held on 16th of February. Our speaker will be Jaakko Lehtinen. Jaakko is both an associate professor at Aalto as well as a principal research scientist with NVIDIA Research.

We have invited him to speak to us to give a broader perspective on research in the natural sciences, and how it can make contact with industry. He will tell us about some of the ways in which machine learning combined with physical simulations can help to tackle hard problems in artificial intelligence, in a talk titled When you see x, say y.

Here is his abstract:

How do we make computers perceive the everyday world and deeply understand it just by looking at it? How do we build virtual agents and real robots that build on this perception and are able to move and interact with the world, including us humans, in a natural manner? In this talk, I’ll aim to get you excited about the currently accelerating congruence of physically-based simulation and machine learning in solving very hard problems in artificial intelligence. I’ll argue that the classic approach of “merely” learning from human-labeled examples is doomed – there is simply no way for us to cover all the variability in the real world with annotated examples – and that making use of interpretable models (simulators!) in the learning process is the way forward. I’ll give examples of my own work, as well as that of my close colleagues and collaborators, and other highlights from around the world.

After the 30 minute talk, there will be a cocktail reception. Welcome!

Update 23.2.2018: You can watch a video of Jaakko’s talk here [link updated 6.4.2018]:

26th January 2018 at 14.15 in D101: Claus Montonen – Nobel lecture

Claus Montonen headshotOn Friday 26th of January 2018, the Physics department will hold the first in a series of exciting, thought-provoking colloquia. These talks are aimed at a wide audience.

Our first talk is from Claus Montonen, a distinguished theoretical physicist. He is known for his work on the Montonen-Olive duality in quantum field theory, but it is his involvement with ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, that he shall speak about in a talk titled The Road to a Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons.

ICAN won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”.

ICAN logo

Montonen will discuss the history of attempts to achieve complete nuclear disarmament, and outline the developments leading to the agreement on the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons (TBNW) last July. He will highlight the role of non-governmental organizations and initiatives, and discuss the obstacles to the general acceptance of the TBNW. Here is his abstract:

Since the introduction of nuclear weapons there have been attempts to achieve complete nuclear disarmament. This history will be recalled and the developments leading to the agreement on a Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons (TBNW) last July described. The role of non-govermental organizations and initiatives, especially of the recent Nobel peace laureate ICAN, will be highlighted. Finally the obstacles to the general acceptance of the TBNW will be discussed.

After the 30 minute talk, there will be a cocktail reception. Welcome!

Update 27.1.2018: Claus’s slides are available to download here.