November 2015

Katherine Dooley (University of Mississippi): Curved space-time:Celebrating the 100th anniversary of General Relativity

November 1915 was a revolutionary month in the history of science. Einstein published a series of four papers, week upon week, culminating with his presentation of the field equations of General Relativity. He told us that what we thought we knew about gravity from our everyday experience is not the whole story. Gravity is the result of massive objects warping space and time. After 100 years, his theory has survived a series of continuous tests of its validity. I will tell some of the early story of Einstein's rise to becoming a pop star and show examples of some of the bizarre consequences of his theory.

November 17, 2015, 6pm - 7pm
Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd, Oxford

October 2015

Jo Howard: Reflections on the Apollo Space Program and Mathematics and Science Careers

Jo Howard, a 1967 graduate of The University of Mississippi, worked for Boeing on programming the trajectories that put a man on the moon in 1969. She has had a long and varied career in programming space simulators, data management in the oil and gas industries, and real estate development. She has also been involved in charitable work, such as the Living Water International program to provide clean water to millions around the world. Jo will share insights about education and life that she gained throughout her eclectic career.

October 27, 2015, 6pm - 7pm
Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd, Oxford

October 2015

Kevin Beach (University of Mississippi): Topological Quantum States of Matter

Our usual experience is that objects become increasingly ordered as they move from hot to cold. Heat energy works to agitate and disrupt; when that energy is taken away, material systems typically settle into a preferred configuration that exhibits pattern and regularity rather than randomness and disorder. At low temperature, for example, liquids freeze into particular crystal structures and magnets align along an orientation. But some materials do not undergo such a transition, even down to the lowest achievable temperatures. These systems remain totally featureless, like a liquid. This is possible because the agitation that keeps them disordered is quantum rather than thermal. Even more strange, we now understand that featureless quantum states can have a so-called topological character, which means that they behave differently when defined on the surface of a donut or a sphere. This may be a key feature for the development of quantum computers. In this talk, I will explain these concepts-using only pictures and demonstrations and no equations-and give the example of a quantum phase of matter that is believed to exist in certain antiferromagnets.

October 20, 2015, 6pm - 7pm
Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd, Oxford

September 2015

Jared Delcamp (University of Mississippi): Energy Dependence, Sources and Important Technologies: A Look Into America's Future

Evaluating and securing the United States energy future is critically important. Our energetic needs are vast and directly related to many of our primary needs for survival including the food on all of our tables. With the rise of synthetic fertilizer dependence in our agricultural sector over the last century, we have linked ourselves to an energy intensive process to provide our meals. Understanding where this energy is coming from and how much we have at our current sources is a serious concern. This talk will evaluate the where our energy is coming from, estimates on how much we have left, and discuss technologies being developed through the support of many private and government agencies in an effort to meet our future energy needs. A brief descriptor of how these technologies work and what researchers are doing in our community at the University of Mississippi to gain full energy independence as well as a secure energy future for the US will be discussed.

September 15, 2015, 6pm - 7pm
Tapas Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd, Oxford

April 2015

Sandra Spiroff (University of Mississippi): Unique factorization and a roll of the dice

Starting from the familiar factorization of integers into prime numbers, we extend the concept of unique factorization to polynomials and beyond.  In particular, we will discuss how unique factorization, or the lack of it, probably jeopardized early attempts to prove Fermat's Last Theorem, and we will learn an interesting application to the  probabilities associated with rolling a pair of dice.  If time permits, we will run some experiments and play the casino game of Craps.  The mathematical difficulty of the majority of this talk is high school algebra, and many examples will be given.

April 21, 2015, Lusa Pastry Café, 6pm - 7pm.

March 2015

Todd Smitherman (University of Mississippi): Migraine: Knowns and Unknowns

Migraine is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent attacks of severe head pain accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Data from the World Health Organization indicate that migraine is the 3rd most common medical condition and 8th leading cause of disability on the planet. Despite its high prevalence and impact, migraine remains underdiagnosed and inadequately treated, though recent scientific advances offer new hope for combatting this chronic condition. In the last two decades, substantial progress has been made in understanding migraine pathophysiology, headache triggers, and the role of common co-occurring conditions, as well as in establishing effective treatments. This talk will review recent scientific progress in migraine across these and other areas, differentiating between what is well-established from empirical research (the “knowns”) and what remains to be understood (the “unknowns”). This educational talk is geared toward interested community members, including both those who do and do not suffer from migraine.

March 24, 2015, Lusa Pastry Café, 6pm - 7pm.

February 2015

Luca Bombelli (University of Mississippi): General Relativity at 100

Albert Einstein published the first papers on his theory of gravity, General Relativity, 100 years ago. Several predictions of the theory for the solar system, where gravity is relatively weak, were tested and confirmed early on, and the first observations of galaxies outside the Milky Way mostly fit the predictions of the theory for the evolution of the universe as a whole. This made Einstein famous and, together with the mathematical beauty of the fact that it explained gravity as curvature of space-time, made general relativity the currently accepted theory. But predicting the behavior of objects where gravity is really strong such as near black holes or neutron stars is much more difficult, and in this sense our understanding of gravity is still in its youth. In cosmology the quality of our observations of very distant regions of the universe has improved dramatically in recent years, and those results appear to challenge the predictions of general relativity. And studies of how to combine gravity with quantum theory and the other known forces in nature also indicate that at microscopic scales general relativity will need to be replaced by a different theory.

February 17, 2015, Lusa Pastry Café, 6pm - 7pm.