Akron Phy sics Club
Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, January 25, 1999 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM
Speaker for our the first meeting of 1999 (a terrible year for draftsmen who must letter four identical 9s) will be Dr. Cyrus Taylor, Associate Professor of Physics, Case Western Reserve University particle physicist who has his own web site: http://theory2.phys.cwru.edu/faculty Dr. Taylor's subject will be
THE STANDARD MODEL
Minutes, January 25, 1999
Present for our first meeting of 1999 were regulars Vic Burke, Tom Dudek, Dan Galehouse, Alan Gent, Jack Gieck, Bob Hirst, Bill Jenkins, Dan Livingston, Leon Marker, Pad Pillai, Ernst von Meerwall, and Charlie Wilson, plus, we are delighted to report, half a dozen members of the University of Akron Physics Department faculty: Drs. C. Frank Griffin, Peter Henriksen, Ben Hu, and Jutta Lüttmer-Strathmann. We enjoyed their company and we hope to see more of them.
The (happily) brief business of the evening included Treasurer Dan Galehouse’s reporting that our treasury remains swimmingly in the black to the tune of $50 or so. The annual conflict that arises with the fourth Monday in March and the APA national meeting has been resolved after due deliberation with a new March 29th date, and Vic Burke has advised that Robert W. Brown, Institute Professor, Department of Physics, Case Western Reserve University will entertain us with some of his phenomenal baseball statistics.
Our speaker for the evening, Dr. Cyrus Taylor, Associate Professor of Physics, Case Western Reserve University, left no doubt that he is a consummate particle physicist in his presentation, The Standard Model — a state-of-the-art discourse that included history of the field (whose beginnings go back only three decades), its content (matter, forces), experiments (accelerators, detectors, and the issue of what sets the scale), as well as previews of coming attractions (some of which look like they could make NASA’s budget look like an amateur effort).
For those of us who are still swimming in the somewhat stagnant aquarium of pre-WWII physics, Cyrus’s fascinating talk nearly engulfed us in a prolixity of new concepts, e.g., mass arising as a property of the vacuum, forces mitigated by an exchange of bosons having integer spin, gravity associated with (conjectural) massless gravitons, the intellectual birth of the z boson in the last decade, the selective attractions felt by gluons for the strong force, w and z bosons for the weak force, and the photons for electromagnetic force. A sorely-needed but as yet undetec-ted component in this particle zoo seems to be the Higgs boson (which may be a composite particle, the product of fermion-boson symmetry) about which there also seems to be considerable skepticism — a reaction that this writer finds comforting.
To establish the likelihood of the very existence of these subgigamicro oddments, in both the United States and in a consortium of some twenty European countries, mammoth accelerators of breathtaking proportions (e.g., the Levitron and the Hadron Collider — the LEP/SVC has a circumference of 27 km, the LHC is even bigger) are being built. Showing us some stunning color transparencies, our speaker revealed the scale of these machines — tracking chambers, “calorimeter-scintillators” producing showers of dazzling particle pyrotechnics in a four-layer detector to be housed in a laboratory that would fit (albeit snugly) into the Houston Astrodome — images that were reminiscent of the best of Elliott Dold’s 1930s illustrations for Hugo Gernsbach’s Amazing Stories, and later, John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction.
As if this were not enough, our speaker believes that “There is probably an additional level of symmetry in the universe that we don’t see yet — but at very high energies. Indeed, Einstein may well have been right that there is a cosmo-logical constant — but 140 orders of magnitude smaller than it ought to be.”
Your secretary’s mentor for these minutes (he usually has at least one), Vic Burke dissipated some of the mist in these pre-war synapses with the following: “The standard model consists of three fermion families of matter particles, and the bosons that mitigate the forces between them. In the first family there is the electron, its neutrino, and two quarks. The second family duplicates the particles of the first family except for an increase in mass: muon neutrino and two quarks. In the third family there is the (even heavier) tau particle which behaves exactly like an electron but is twice the mass of a proton(!), plus a tau neutrino.” But: “All the matter that we see in the world is made of particles of the first family. The other two have existed only in the first few moments of the big bang — and in experi-ments like the above.” Finally, in place of after-dinner mints, our speaker gave us the following to savor:
Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, February 22, 1999 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM
Speaker for our February 22nd meeting will be Dr. Alan Rocke, Department of History of Science and Technology, Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Rocke’s subject will be:
THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF CHEMICAL STRUCTURES
Minutes, February 22, 1999
Present for our February meeting were Georg Böhm, Vic Burke, Tom Dudek, Dan Galehouse, Jack Gieck, Bob Hirst, Bill Jenkins, Dan Livingston, Leon Marker, Pad Pillai, Darrell Reneker, Jack Strang, Ernst von Meerwall, and Charlie Wilson; and we were pleased to welcome our speaker’s wife, Christine Rocke — who, even if she has heard the presentation before, surely must have been as impressed and entertained as the rest of us.
After a 45-second business meeting during which Treasurer Dan Galehouse reGaled us [sorry about that] with the news that the Club’s treasury continues in the black to the tune of $50.09, we were treated to a slide show and an exciting informal lecture by our speaker for the evening.
With a topic billed simply as The Origin and History of Chemical Structures, Dr. Alan Rocke, Henry Eldridge Bourne Professor of History, Department of Science and Technology, Case Western Reserve University, honored the creative icons of 19th century chemistry (or Natural Philosophy as some of them perceived their studies) as he led us through the historical adventure of the intuitive divination (a century before electron microscopes or NMRs) of the nature of chemical structures — with only the wet chemical methods available at the time for guidance.
Beginning with a beautiful engraving of Englishman John Dalton (1766-1844), author of Dalton’s Law of partial pressures (1807), who refined the idea of “atoms” and defined the laws of stoichiometry, we also heard about J. J. Berzelius, Swedish chemist who gave us the symbols for the elements that are still in use today [e.g., “Au” for aurum, “Fe” for ferrum] and calculated a remarkably accurate table of atomic weights. To Berzelius we are indebted for such words (and concepts) as isomerism, allotropism, and protein — as well as electropositive vs. electronegative elements.
Next, we heard about would-be pharmacist Justus Liebig (1803-1873), who, after becoming the first graduate student of Gay-Lussac, went on to be a pioneer and master of organic chemistry — organizer of an early research group laboratory that has become the Liebig Museum at Giessen. Here he devised and constructed a very accurate combustion train analysis apparatus that is not only a monument to the skills of 19th century glassblowers, it has since become memorialized in the triangu-lar pattern of the five spherical bulbs that are the logo of the American Chemical Society. The device caused potassium hydroxide to absorb weighable carbon dioxide.
But the discussion of Friederich August Kekulé [von Stradonitz] (1829-1896; and yes, he was German) and his euphoric dreaming of “sausage formulae,” which were the first three-dimensional structural formula concepts (one of them leading to the snake-with-its-tail-in-its-mouth [or multiple snakes or multiple monkeys] concept of the benzene ring) led right into Alan’s piece de resistance for the evening: the nature of the creative process in science — the explosive emergence of the inventor’s “Aha!” after a period of quiet mental fermentation, dramatized early on by the wildly-yelling Archimedes as he ran naked through the streets of Syracuse. It (our speaker’s lecture, not Archimedes’ yelling) precipitated a vigorous discussion, and we are in Alan’s debt.
A reminder: nominations (or volunteers) for next year’s officers are due at the next meeting — or send them to your secretary if you wish.
Now then, baseball fans and others, to assure your grandstand seat, please call in or otherwise zap your reservations (or regrets) by Thursday afternoon, March 25th, to our Secretary for Reservations and Tangier Guarantees: Charlie Wilson: 836-4167
Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, March 29, 1999 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM
Our March speaker will be Professor Robert W. Brown, Institute Professor, Department of Physics, Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Brown confesses a passion for baseball. His topic (not surprisingly) will be:
BASEBALL LESSONS ON PHYSICS, STATISTICS, AND THE NEWS MEDIA - AS TAUGHT TO ME BY MARK MCGWIRE
Minutes, March 29, 1999
We were pleased to welcome Tom & Marie Brooker, Robert Mallik, and Kailish Satyamurthy to our March meeting, and hope we’ll see more of them! Regulars included George Böhm, Vic Burke. Dan Galehouse, Alan Gent, Jack Gieck, Bob Hirst, Bill Jenkins, Dan Livingston, Leon Marker, Darrell Reneker, Jack Strang, Ernst von Meerwall, and Charlie Wilson. And we were delighted to meet our speaker, Dr. Robert Brown as well as his wife (and obvious fan), Janet.
Following a Treasurer’s Report by Dan Galehouse (who reassured us that we are still solvent and unassessable for the moment), Chairman Ernst inquired of Chair Emeritus (and bylaws author) Charlie Wilson as to the status of our election of officers for the coming year. Charlie reported that (1) no nominations had been received, but (2) Vic Burke had agreed to take on the role of Program Chair, with nine-year-veteran Program Chairman Leon Marker [thank you Leon!] retiring to Vice-Chair for that (paramount) responsibility. Then, cutting to the chase, Charlie moved that, with the exception of the noted change, the current slate of officers be carried over for the new APC season. Duly seconded, the motion carried (almost) unanimously [your secretary having cast a vote against himself]. For the record, then, the slate of officers for the coming year is:
|Chair||Ernst von Meerwall|
|Secretary (Newsletter)||Jack Gieck|
|Secretary (Reservations)||Charlie Wilson|
|Program Chair||Vic Burke|
|Program Vice-Chair||Leon Marker|
Our speaker for the evening was Professor Robert W. Brown, Institute Professor, Department of Physics, Case Western Reserve University, an incurable and unashamed baseball addict who is a nationally-recognized authority frequently consulted by newspapers, electronic media, statisticians (offering beer bets) and others — NOT including gamblers as it turns out. So it was not a surprise to learn that his talk would carry the (slightly revised) title of Learning Physics and Statistics from Mark McGuire — or — BASEBALL DYNAMICS OF COMPLEX MEDIA.
“Media” turned out to have more than one meaning: On July 22, 1998, Dr. Brown got a call from a San Francisco newspaper reporter with the question, “What is the probability that Mark McGuire will break Roger Maris’ home run record of 1961?” At the time, McGuire had hit 43 home runs and there were 63 games left for St. Louis. Our speaker’s answer (two hours later) from his theoretical predictions:
1. There would be a 97% chance that Mark McGuire would do it, and
2. A better than even chance that he would break the record by September 13.
3. There was a 92 % chance that McGuire would break Babe Ruth’s record, and
4. Better than even chance that he would break Babe Ruth’s record by Sept. 11.
5. Brown expected McGuire to hit 70 HRs by the end of the season.
And Brown’s “experimental” results were: (1) Mark McGuire broke Ruth’s record on September 7th, and Maris’ record on the 8th; (2) McGuire hit 70 homers.
Our speaker displayed the graphic results of distributions of his theoretical prognostications vs. the subsequent real-world happenings that happened. The patterns were spookily similar! He went on to explain (“decry” would be a better word if Bob weren’t so polite) his subsequent revelation of “The Media as a Filter.” E.g.: his statement in answer to an Atlanta reporter’s question about hometowner Garraga, for example, was that, with 58 games left, Garraga had a 50% chance of hitting more than 50 home runs, but less than one percent of beating Maris’ record. Brown’s conclusion was erroneously published in the Atlanta Constitution as “Garraga has a 50-50 chance of beating Roger Maris!”
Dr. Brown outlined some of his calculations — one of which proved, from analysis of a McGuire trajectory, that the distance from home plate to the Jacobs Field scoreboard (into which McGuire had slammed a dent) was 435 feet, NOT the reported 485 feet (which would have required a ball velocity of 140 mph a value that even the mighty McGuire was incapable of achieving [although he has swatted 130!]). But some of Bob’s other observations included:
1. Chance doesn’t rule; baseball is not a random game.
2. If you are going to do this kind of calculation based on human beings, pick Mark McGuire [because of astounding consistency].
3. There is a whole town of people who understand statistics better than the rest of us, and they make out very well — in Las Vegas.
Now then: For April, please call in or otherwise zap your reservations (or regrets) by Thursday afternoon, April 22nd, to our Reservations Secretary, Charlie Wilson: 836-4167
Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, April 26, 1999 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM
Our April program, we are pleased to announce, will feature a return to the podium of our own DR. DAN GALEHOUSE, whose topic will be:
The Lense-Thirring Effect: Theory, Experiment, and Enigma
Minutes, April 26, 1999
Present for our April meeting were Tom & Marie Brooker [welcome back!], Robert Mallik [likewise!], Vic Burke. Dan Galehouse, Jack Gieck, Bob Hirst, Bill Jenkins, Dan Livingston, Leon Marker, Pad Pillai, Darrell Reneker, Jack Strang, and Ernst von Meerwall. Reporting in one of his multifaceted roles for the evening (Treasurer, Projectionist, Projector Owner/Stevedore, Speaker — and, as it became apparent, Pioneering Physicist), Treasurer Dan Galehouse reassured the membership that with a treasury balance breaking fifty dollars, we would complete the club year next month without further assessment.
At which point we were treated to an exposition of the topic of the evening: The Lense-Thirring Effect: Theory, Experiment, and Enigma, by our own, Dr. Dan Galehouse. Our speaker took up his subject in that order, citing the experiments of such pioneers as Clifford, Ciufolini, and Everitt to explore the implications of Thirring’s three years of pondering Einstein’s revolutionary General Relativity paper of 1915, coming up with what could be the astonishing consequences of Einstein’s apparent proof that mass varies with velocity.
So, Thirring wondered, is there an electromagnetic effect in a gravitational field? Is a gravitational field a function not only of density, but also velocity — thus producing a “gravito-magnetic effect?” Are there velocity-dependent terms in gravity that are analogous to the effects of the magnetic field in electrodynamics? Covering an entire 8 1/2 X 11 transparency with a light mist of mathematical terms (that this writer lacks both the space and the smarts to reproduce here), our speaker produced an “elementary demonstration of the origin of the effect by combining Newtonian gravity, special relativity, and a general notion of equivalence” which strongly suggests that Thirring’s 1918 theory is an inescapable product of Einstein’s 1915 breakthrough paper.
The powerful concept became clear to this audient with our speaker’s graphic illustrating a rotating outer shell of mass(es) generating a relativistic gravito-magnetic effect on a recording device at the center of the ring (which device Dan invented for us as small radially-dispersed weights clinging to the ends of springs in three tubes having intersecting axes at right angles to each other). In this thought experiment, the satellite masses in the spinning outer shell, it seems, can be expected to attract the suspended weights in the recording device in the plane of the shell’s orbit, stretching the springs by exactly the amount they would extend if the stationary recording device were itself rotating. Talk about a relativistic perspective! (Worse, it turns out that a more complex calculation implies the existence of an additional [canceling] inward force that this writer would rather not think about.)
Such fascinating effects have yet to be proved conclusively. Will Clifford made an attempt by comparing the behavior of identical spheres of Teflon and cleaning fluid having identical inertial masses, but whose molecules differ by one atom of chlorine being replaced by fluorine, hoping to find, in a test of equivalence, a gravitational difference. The results were null.
Italian experimenter Ciufolini did some work recently with (simple reflective) satellites, aiming instruments at them which combined orbital coefficients in a way that cancels everything except the Lense Thirring effect — obtaining results that were (remarkably!) within 25% of those predicted. To more precisely investigate the phenomenon, there is currently a NASA program underway that will put into a 650 km polar orbit an Everitt satellite containing 600 gallons of liquid helium, four superconducting spheres acting as gyroscopes, as well a telescope that will be aimed at a distant star for reference — which, if all goes well, should yield results (measured as precession in the gyroscopes) in experiments to be run from 2000 to 2002. For more on this one, tune into NASA’s URL: http://einstein.stanford.edu/gen_int/pict_gal.html.
The enigma to which Dan referred lies in such disturbing implications as the conclusion that a spinning particle must also generate a field — which idea our speaker characterized as a “metaphysical disaster,” and which, Vic Burke correctly observed, constituted “very difficult ideas to ponder.”
And so: For the last time this club year, please call in or otherwise zap your reservations (or regrets) by Thursday afternoon, May 20th, to our Reservations Secretary, Charlie Wilson: 836-4167
Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, May 24, 1999 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM
Our Speaker for our last program before our summer hiatus will be Prof. Ali Dhinojwala, of The University of Akron’s Department of Polymer Science. Dr. Dhinojwala’s topic is:
LIGHT TO PROBE POLYMER SURFACES
Minutes, May 24, 1999
Present for our May meeting, the last before our summer hiatus, were Tom & Marie Brooker, Vic Burke. Dan Galehouse, Alan Gent, Jack Gieck, Ben Hu, Dan Livingston, Leon Marker, Darrell Reneker, Jack Strang, Ernst von Meerwall, and Charlie Wilson. Called upon for a pecuniary status report, Treasurer Galehouse reported that our treasury had actually gained about three dollars since April, and its fifty dollar balance will require no sweetening until fall.
Then, for our May program, speaking about Light to Probe Polymer Surfaces, Prof. Ali Dhinojwala, of The University of Akron’s Department of Polymer Science explained in detail how bright light striking a polymer surface can transmit a wealth of information, including, but by no means limited to, such factors as refractive index, thickness (including extremely small ones), absorption, monolayers, and birefringence -- for openers. Moreover, in addition to visible light, one can move both ways — up into ultraviolet, x-rays, gamma rays; or down into infrared, microwaves, etc.
Using very high-intensity laser light on suitable polymer surfaces, second-order non-linear optical effects can produce some radiation at, e.g., twice the frequency of the incident beam; or, if two beams of different frequencies irradiate the same spot, radiation at the sum of the two frequencies may be observed. To put more than a casual amount of light on his surfaces, our speaker used a 500 mW titanium-doped sapphire laser having ulta-short pulses (@ 1 khz), focused down to a spot 500 microns in diameter (or two of same, one projecting visible light, the other tunable infrared). Resulting radiation at the “sum frequency” can be detected and recorded, using the angle of reflection from the surface to select out this frequency alone. By varying the frequency of the tunable infrared laser, it is possible to sweep out a spectrum of frequencies over some suitable range, recording the intensity variations with frequency over this range — which can be considerable, and which are characteristic of the surface.
Showing how each molecule has its own signal structure, Ali presented a plots for a variety of polymers — wavenumbers vs. SFG (sum-frequency generation) intensity — the graphs showing distinct differences in their characteristics. Proper-ties that can be quantitatively analyzed from recorded results include surface tension, hysteresis, surface melting, and glass transition temperature. Ali’s is a rela-tively recent technique that promises to illuminate this new field (sorry about that).
In Addenda: With further reference to Dan Galehouse’s April program, Tom Brooker (whose PhD thesis dealt with relativistic issues) advises that, “When placed within a rotating mass shell, the springs of Dan's hypothetical measuring device would stretch but not by the same amount as if the measuring device were rotating. In fact, the stretch would be much smaller. This is because when the shell is rotating, the measuring device is stationary relative to all the other matter in the universe (the distant stars, gas, etc.). On the other hand, when the measuring device is rotating, it rotates relative to the shell and the cosmic matter.” (Dan, of course, knew this already). I think Burke is right: “These are very difficult ideas to ponder.”
So, once again in case you have forgotten the drill over the summer: Please call in or otherwise zap your reservations (or regrets) by Thursday afternoon, September 23rd, to our Reservations Secretary, Charlie Wilson: 836-4167
Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, September 27, 1999 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM
Speaker for our very first program of the new club year will be our own Dr. Alan Gent, who will present the Gordon Conference lecture he delivered in July at Colby-Sawyer College:
ANOMALOUS FEATURES OF THE ABRASIVE RESISTANCE OF ELASTOMERS
Minutes, September 27, 1999
Attracted by our opening speaker for the new club year, our near-record attendance included Georg Böhm (albeit briefly),* Tom and Marie Brooker, Vic Burke, Tom Dudek, Dan Galehouse, Alan Gent, Jack Gieck, Peter Henriksen, Bob Hirst, Bill Jenkins, Bob Mallik, Leon Marker, Pad Pillai, Gary Roberts, Jack Strang, Ernst von Meerwall, Charlie Wilson and (back from Rome after five years), Joe Walter. Welcome home, Joe!
* Georg, who had another commitment, stopped by to introduce Dr. Peyman Pakdel of Bridgestone/Firestone Research. Welcome aboard, Peyman!
Chairman Ernst welcomed (as did we all) a brief report by Treasurer Dan Galehouse, who announced that the near-record attendance of the evening had resulted in our club’s eking its way into even greater solvency — a speculation Dan later quantified as a whopping $80.09 treasury balance. So our dueslessness will continue for the present. Program Team Vic Burke, Chairman, and Leon Marker, VC, gave us reason(s) to believe we will continue to have outstanding speakers: next month, Dr. Brett Ellman of Kent State.
His significant resume reviewed by Ernst, our own internationally-known elastomers consultant, Dr. Alan Gent treated us to a consideration of some of the mysteries surrounding the Anomalous Features of the Abrasion Resistance of Elastomers. Alan announced that his would necessarily be a “light weight” talk, partly because answers cannot yet be found. “There are puzzles here,” he confessed. Although three quarters of the ten million tons of rubber sold annually is made into tires, we simply “don’t know where a lot of this stuff ends up.”
One of the biggest problems associated with abrasion (don’t call it “wear”), it seems, is that when we measure abrasion in different ways, we get different answers. Elastomeric materials like rubber abrade in ways radically different from other substances; i.e., scrape metal and you get scratches parallel to the scrape; with rubber the scratches are perpendicular to movement of the scraper. Which unique property, Alan observed, could be used to analyze what has happened to a tire during its lifetime (and could also suggest that instead of 180° tire rotation, tires maybe should be rotated 90°!).
A pioneer of abrasion testing technnique in which a blade is mounted to simultaneously abrade both sides of a rotating disc, Alan showed us the remarkable differences between the wear patterns of different elastomers tested this way — patterns which emerge as either a slightly-bumpy surface, with tiny bumps of the order of 4-5 microns (having shed particles of dust), or as parallel ridges several hundred microns apart. BUT, if one opts for emery paper (DIN abrader), he gets significantly different results. Some elastomers that do well on one test do poorly on the other.
We heard about the analytical efforts of Schallamach and Thomas. The former was convinced that abrasion was proportional to frictional work (not always true); the latter believed that abrasion could be construed as an incremental tearing mechanism, in which the cracks grow with repeated stress — mechanical fatigue. We saw some micrographic sketches illustrating how the tips of stuff could flake off when scraped by a blade. To defeat this mechanism, soft materials are better: one needs a low modulus with high elongation at break. But what is true in this regard of SBR [styrene butadiene rubber] is not true of polybutadiene; and what is true dry is negated by testing wet. And with the DIN abrader, things are very different. Alan showed us a micro-miniature model to explain the difference: In the case of the DIN rough surface, the mechanism changes from crack growth to catastrophic tear; now high friction produces pronounced score patterns. But rates of abrasion do not increase with frictional work input.
In conclusion, our speaker gave us a list of remaining unsolved mysteries, including the role of carbon black reinforcement, which, although it greatly increases the tensile strength of most elastomers, drastically reduces the abrasion resistance of natural rubber. And he included what amounted to a news flash (since he had first heard about it ten days earlier): the apparent bonding of carbon black to rubber molecules may be related to the deposit of sulfur condensing on the tiny particles as they are produced from the flames of burning oil.
So, once again: Please call in or otherwise zap your reservations (or regrets) by Thursday afternoon, October 21st, to Reservations Secretary Charlie Wilson: 836-4167
Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, October 25, 1999 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM
Our October speaker will be Dr. Steven Cederbloom, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Mount Union College. Dr. Cederbloom will address the question (and our espionage promises some interesting answers):
IS COSMOLOGY SOLVED?
Minutes, October 25, 1999
APC Regulars in attendance at our October meeting included Tom & Marie Brooker, Vic Burke, Tom Dudek, Dan Galehouse, Jack Gieck, Bob Hirst, Bill Jenkin, Dan Livingston, Robert Mallik, Leon Marker, Pad Pillai, Gary Roberts, Jack Strang, Ernst von Meerwall, Joe Walter, and Charlie Wilson. And we were pleased to welcome Bob Marx, who is now on the mailing list. We hope we’ll see more of him.
Invited to assess our financial condition by Chairman Ernst, Treasurer Dan Galehouse reported that our treasury balance had actually broken into three digits — an embarrassment of riches!
Our speaker, Dr. Steve Cederbloom “half of the Physics Department” of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Mount Union College, delivered some mind-blowing answers to his announced topical question, Is Cosmology Solved?
An effervescent speaker, Dr. Cederbloom likened the current Peebles/Turner debate on cosmological matters to the Shapley/Curtis debate of the 1920s (over what the great spiral nebulae actually were). Referring us to Alan H. Guth’s The Inflationary Universe for further detail, Steve introduced us to a cascade of veritably explosive ideas, all, appropriately enough, associated with the Big Bang.
For openers, he pointed out that any new general cosmological theory had to deal with such puzzles as Hubble’s Law, the abundance of elements, cosmic background radiation, and the (seemingly unlikely) formation of structure. A certifiably daunting assignment.
In discussing Hubble’s classic finding (i.e., not only is the the universe expanding, but the farther away an object is, the faster it is receding), Dr. Cederbloom explained that we are not dealing here with the relatively slow physical movement of galaxies (which is of the order of a few kilometers per second), but rather the expansion of space itself.
And then there is the matter of the abundance of elements. It can be shown, for example that, during the life of the universe, the stars cannot possibly have made the amount of helium that exists in the cosmos. But the Big Bang can account for it — as well as, happily, cosmic background radiation and the existence of structure in the universe (e.g. clusters of rotating systems within systems within systems), instead of merely a uniform soup of particles. Speaking of which, it was a fascinating concept for this audient to envision submicrominiature subatomic particles (or whatever bits of hot juice), having been produced in the fiery fury of the Big Bang, collecting and organizing themselves together to form atoms for the first time anywhere — as the temperature “cooled” enough to permit that to happen.
But there are lots of other problems that a simplistic explanation like the one implied earlier can’t handle, e.g.: the universe is “flat.” It seems to be neither the closed system of an expanding sphere of space (at whose center was the Big Bang — which would logically suggest that gravity will eventually shrink it all back into a Big Crunch), nor is it an “open” saddle or whatever; because if you plot the ratio of actual mass density to critical mass density vs. time, no matter where you check it, the slope of the curve, Ω = 0. Moreover (if that sentence wasn’t long enough), there is no difference in temperature (2.73° K) from cosmic horizon to cosmic horizon. And while we’re at it, where are the magnetic monopoles there ought to be?
Well, friends, it seems that inflation of the universe — at many times the velocity of light (that’s okay since it wasn’t really an acceleration of any mass; remember, it’s space itself that’s expanding) — a scant 10-32 seconds after the whole shebang went off, creating negative pressures and gravitational repulsion and other phenomena too boggling to contemplate on a full stomach (perhaps even mass itself suddenly evolving out of primordial fluid, which George Gamow called “ylem” — a word which is probably out of style). And we saw 3-D “Mexican hat” carpet plots that are the product of Higgs Field concepts — the best written explanation of which can no doubt be found in Dr. Guth’s above book. Certainly not here! But NASA actually has some real-world experiments in the works to investigate these matters.
Our sincere thanks to Steve Cederbloom for an exhilarating presentation.
So now, after a deep sigh, to assure your place at the dinner tables for Dr. Elman’s talk, please call in or otherwise zap your reservations (or regrets) by Thursday afternoon, November 22nd, to Reservations Secretary Charlie Wilson: 836-4167
Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, November 22, 1999 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM
Our November speaker (for our last meeting of 1999) will be Dr. Brett Elman, Department of Physics, Kent State University. Dr. Elman’s topic will be:
WHAT’S ALL THE NOISE ABOUT? OF RESONANCES, SOUND, AND SUPERCONDUCTORS
Minutes, November 22, 1999
Present for our last meeting of the previous millennium included regulars Tom & Marie Brooker, Vic Burke, Tom Dudek, Dan Galehouse, Alan Gent, Jack Gieck, Bob Hirst, Bill Jenkin, Dan Livingston, Robert Mallik, Leon Marker, Peyman Pakdel, Pad Pillai, Darrell Reneker, Jack Strang, Ernst von Meerwall, Joe Walter, and Charlie Wilson. And we had a new recruit: Welcome Lyle Pauer! And those of us privileged to have dinner with the speaker were delighted to get acquainted with wife-person Martine Ellman. All three are cordially invited to future meetings.
Called upon for an opinion, Treasurer Dan Galehouse advised that our treasury was probably of the order of $95 rich. But a subsequent call from our treasurer revealed that our wealth had grown to a record $112.17!
Leon Marker introduced our speaker for the evening. Dr. Brett Ellman, of Kent State’s Department of Physics, whose topic, to the bafflement of some recipients of the Newsletter, was listed as What’s all the noise about: Resonances, Sound, and Superconductors. Dr. Ellman turned out to be our first speaker whose presentation had a sliding, interactive title — his audience getting to click on whatever link they would most like to hear more about.
All of the nuances Dr. Ellman presented revolved around superconductivity, a property first described in 1911, it seems, by Kamerlingh Onnes — who, after figuring out how to liquefy helium, had to find something to do with his exotic, new, fun technology. Easily making a very hard metal out of mercury and exciting it with the relatively new medium made available by Volta, Edison, Tesla, and others, Onnes reported on the remarkable electrical “resistance transition” of mercury at very cold temperatures. But it wasn’t until 1957 that the first theories began to emerge to explain this remarkable phenomenon.
After reviewing theory history, (beginning with Bardine, Cooper, Schriefer) Brett offered us a smorgasbord of subtitles from which to choose — all current experimental approaches to the study of superconductivity. Happily, we eventually learned a little about all of them in the course of the evening: (1) transverse attenuation under stress, (2) the results of making an object vibrate at its natural frequency, a.k.a resonant ultrasonics, and (3) microwave ultrasonics.
Our speaker explained that until the advent of quantum mechanics, we really didn’t know what made metal metal (with all those roving electrons). With a series of neatly conceived graphics, Brett showed us how fermions pile up energy on the surface — which has a geometry that varies with the element. He next explained coherent motion of electrons in each atom — how one electron interacts with and dictates the opposite motion of another; that interaction is the secret of exotic superconductors, part of the reason that lead, tin, and aluminum make beautiful superconductor samples, while copper, silver, and any of the magnetic metals are disappointing. In an effort to study this kind of thing, Brett elucidated:
Just as earthquakes make it possible to use their resonant frequencies to study the structure of the earth, examining the acoustics of single crystal whiskers at their resonant frequencies (e.g. longitudinal vs. transverse waves) makes it possible to study quantum mechanical effects. (To investigate such matters, our speaker sandwiches a sample between two transducers, while flooding his assembly with liquid helium.) It got stickier after that. Delivering a spirited lecture enunciated at a pace reminiscent of the iambic tetrameter of Danny Kaye on prescription uppers diluted with caffeine, our speaker’s state-of-the ideas went by at such a velocity that it took assists by Dan Galehouse and Vic Burke to record such nuggets as:
Crystals, it seems, are held together by their electrons. Plain nuclei would repel and disperse themselves if no electrons were present. The electrons congregate around the nuclei and, according to the intrinsic shapes suggested by the quantum theory, determine the allowed arrangement of stable nuclei. A sound wave creates a distortion of these crystal patterns.
The BCS theory, above, is based on the existence of a special electron state in a solid. The concept is that electrons are paired with opposite momenta and can, as pairs, make a transition to a lower state, releasing energy in the process. If the material is cooled, the lower states are favored, and more electrons will collect. The mechanism is acoustical and is believed to account for superconductivity in the classical materials, but doesn’t explain “high-temperature” superconductivity. (The attractive energy gap in classical superconductors is isotropic; not so in high temperature superconductors, which have a 2D nodal gap structure.)
Other nuggets of special interest: The strange, low-temperature superconductor UPt3, unlike other superconductors with only one superconducting phase, exhibits no less than three. A spherical ball bearing has as many as five separate resonant frequencies, indicating separate folds of degeneracy. Puzzles remain!
Once again, for the first time in this new century, to assure your place at the dinner table for Dr. Akerib’s talk, please call in or otherwise zap your reservations (or regrets) by Thursday afternoon, January 20th, to Reservations Secretary Charlie Wilson: 836-4167