Inghram Lectures

The purpose of the biennial Inghram Lecture is to present lucid experimental demonstrations of some of the laws and processes of nature and the theoretical interpretation of these results to a broad community. The level of presentation should be that of undergraduate students and/ or advanced high school students. It should seek to interest, explain and excite individuals, as well as enhance the understanding of selected basic laws of physics.”

2023 -- How Smart is your Bathroom? Sensing molecules by Trapping Light to the Atom Scale

Jeremy J. Baumberg, University of Cambridge

Abstract: The new era of precision health aims to measure you before you are ill, not after. But no gadgets can yet track the biochemical information contained in our blood, sweat, and tears. We have been developing new nanoscale devices which measure the neurotransmitters in your urine, and asking what it can tell about you, your kids, and your parents. We will discuss the strange optical properties of metals, how to build things at the nanoscale, what spectroscopy tells us about molecules, and talk about how responsible science should progress when it can impact wider society. We will explore these ideas together in demonstrations you should definitely try at home!

2019-- Granular Materials: From Quotidian to Astronomical

Karen Daniels, North Carolina State University

Abstract: Granular materials are integral to many parts of our daily lives, from the coffee beans that fuel our mornings to the coal that fuels our power plants. At first glance, these materials might appear simple: macroscopic dry, cohesionless particles which interact only by contact forces. However, they represent a complicated phase of matter neither wholly solid nor wholly liquid: a bucket of sand can be poured out, yet form a stable shape once it lands in a pile. Therefore, a crucial question is how to describe the state of a granular system in order to make accurate predictions about its future behavior: under what conditions will a given granular system remain jammed or flowing? I will talk about a series of experiments ranging from the theoretically-motivated (identifying state variables) to the practical (geological and industrial hazards) to the astronomical (rubble pile asteroids). The results of these experiments elucidate the complex behaviors which make predictions about granular materials difficult, and provide a reason to hope that statistical physics might hold the keys to explaining the observed phenomena.

2017-- Quantum Information for the Common Man: What IMAX has to do with Quantum Cryptography

Paul G. Kwiat, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Abstract: The quantum information revolution promises that the bizarre features of quantum mechanics can enable tasks impossible with classical physics. One of the most advanced yet simplest examples is provably secure encryption. In this lecture we’ll review all the basics needed to understand how quantum cryptograph works, using essentially the same physics as an IMAX 3D movie. Then we’ll discuss some of the latest efforts to get quantum cryptography ‘off the ground’, quite literally! Come see the cool demos!