Imaging the Beginning of Time from the Bottom of the World: Detection of B-mode Polarization with the BICEP2 Telescope at the South Pole

Posted September 10, 2014 by Physics

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Vieregg - Bicep2 talk

The Physics Department at Wheaton College presents a lecture by Abigail Vieregg at 7 p.m. Thursday, September 25. The lecture is titled "Imaging the Beginning of Time from the Bottom of the World: Detection of B-mode Polarization with the BICEP2 Telescope at the South Pole."

Abigail Vieregg, assistant professor of physics at the Enrico Fermi Institute of the University of Chicago, will speak on the latest observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation from the South Pole and the recent detection of B-mode polarization in this radiation as a possible signature of gravitational waves.

Abstract:  The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) is the oldest observable light in the universe, and has proven to be an extremely important tool in modern observational cosmology.  Inflation, the superluminal expansion of the universe during the first moments after the Big Bang, predicts a Cosmic Gravitational-Wave Background, which in turn imprints a faint but unique signature of “B-mode” polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) at degree angular scales.  Detection of the B-mode signature from inflation would constitute strong evidence for inflation and a test of inflationary models at the scale of grand unified theories.  BICEP2, which observed from the South Pole during 2010-2012, is a polarization-sensitive microwave telescope that observes the CMB at degree angular scales and is specifically designed to search for this signature of inflation.  BICEP2 is the second experiment in a four-stage line of degree-scale polarimeters at the South Pole.  I will discuss the recent detection of B-mode polarization at degree angular scales with BICEP2, and the promise for follow-up to this measurement with the Keck Array (currently observing) and BICEP3 (deploying this year).

Free and open to the public, this lecture takes place in room 145 of the Meyer Science Center, located at 430 Howard Street in Wheaton. For more information, contact the Physics Department at 630.752.5007.

Science Symposium 2014 - Nuclear Energy: Realizing the Promise

Posted February 27, 2014 by Physics

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Science Symposium - Power Plant

The Physics Department presents the annual Science Symposium entitled “Nuclear Energy: Realizing the Promise.” The symposium will be held March 26-27, 2014 in the Meyer Science Center on the campus of Wheaton College.

Global energy consumption is expected to increase in the 21st century due to increasing population and demand from industrialized and developing countries. Yet, most of the world’s energy is derived from fossil fuels which are non-renewable and contribute to global warming. Nuclear energy, like other energy sources, has a number of advantages and disadvantages but will likely be a part of the overall energy solution. Current research is addressing issues such as nuclear safety and radioactive waste and advanced reactor designs may offer significant promise for dealing with these concerns. In this year’s symposium, nuclear engineering experts will examine the future of nuclear energy and explore what might be done to bring innovative nuclear technologies from promise to reality.

For more information, go to the symposium website.

Next Steps in Neutrino Physics

Posted October 9, 2013 by Physics


On Tuesday November 17, 2013, Geralyn "Sam" Zeller from Fermilab will give a seminar on neutrino research. The seminar will be held in Rm 145 in the Meyer Science Center and is open for the public. Entrance is free.


Neutrinos are among the most abundant particles in the universe, yet there is a surprising amount of information we still do not know about them. The discovery of neutrino masses and mixing over a decade ago has raised a large number of challenging questions about neutrinos and their connections to the world we live in.

After briefly reviewing what we have learned about neutrinos so far, we will examine these open questions, explain why they are interesting, and discuss plans for answering them in future experiments.

McIntyre Lecture by Jeffrey Koperski

Posted October 9, 2013 by Physics


Thursday, 10 Oct, there will be a McIntyre Lecture at 7pm in SCI 145 by Prof. Jeffrey Koperski, a philosopher of science at Saginaw Valley State University: Title: Divine Intervention and the Laws of Nature: Does God need Quantum Mechanics? Abstract Christians believe that God has ordained the laws of nature. At least since Leibniz, though, many theists have been uncomfortable with the view that God also occasionally breaks those laws in order to act within nature. Today, noninterventionists look for ways in which God might act without violating natural law. Most proposals involve quantum indeterminacy. In this talk, I will consider the theological, philosophical, and scientific arguments for noninterventionism to see whether God in some sense needs quantum mechanics to keep from violating the laws of nature. All are welcome to the lecture.

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