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Yunker Lectures

Edwin Yunker holding cathode tubes used in radar.

The Yunker Lecture Fund was established in 1981 as a result of an original generous gift to the Physics Department from Mrs. Gertrude Yunker, who wished to endow a lecture series in honor of her husband, Dr. Edwin Yunker.

Professor Yunker was a member of the OSU physics faculty from 1925 to 1968, and he served as department chair from 1949 to 1966. Under his leadership we started on the path to becoming a modern, research-oriented physics department. The purpose in establishing the lecture fund was to bring outstanding physicists to the campus to give talks on their specialty areas for a general audience. Additional gifts came from Dr. and Mrs. Yunker; from their daughter Elaine Yunker Whiteley, and her husband, Ben; from their son Wayne Yunker and his wife, Elaine; and from other relatives and friends. Since the first lecture in 1985, we have hosted delightful visitors who have offered stimulating talks on topics ranging from time travel to space-based weapons and from the structure of the universe to the structure of fundamental particles. Although Ed and Gertrude Yunker passed away in 1990, their generosity lives on through this excellent lecture series that they endowed.

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Form follows function’ explains why giraffes have long necks, bird and airplane wings are airfoil-shaped, the fronts of bullet trains are tapered, and syringes are pointed. Darwin made the case for genetic selection by relating the different forms of beaks to the different kinds of seeds the birds must pick. At the level of cells, neurons have evolved to assemble long shafts called axons to connect to other neurons, immune cells form protrusions that look like suction cups to engulf pathogens and other cells, and blood cells are biconcave disks to optimize the surface to volume ratio, allowing gases to effectively diffuse in and out of them. Cells change their shapes on the time scale of seconds to adapt to different functional tasks. Since microscope allowed taking looks at cells in tissues, pathologists have exploited cell shape for diagnosis and stratification of disease. The tight association between cell morphotype and function has gained even more in significance with the growing number of examples where machine learning derives from the morphology predictions not only of cell behavior but of genetic and molecular states. Regardless of whether the connection between morphology and cell state is analyzed by human or machine, these analyses place the morphotype implicitly or explicitly at the end of a regulatory chain. Our recent work begins to indicate that cell shape is not at the end, but at the outset or in the middle of the chain. Shape controls the physical and chemical processes that must ensue for a cell to do the right thing. Hence, ‘function follows form’. We are particularly interested in this reversal of the ‘form follows function’ paradigm in the context of cancer. We find that cancer cells control through shape how they survive, proliferate and metabolize in hostile environments. These discoveries have been enabled by twenty years of innovation in microscopy, computer vision, and biophysical modeling to quantify with high resolution the interplay between cell shape and molecular action that governs function.

Gaudenz Danuser is appointed at the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX, where he served as the Chair of the Lyda Hill Department of Bioinformatics and the Director of the Cecil H. and Ida Green Center or for Systems Biology. He started his academic career as a Master student in Geodynamics at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, where he wrote one of the first software packages for earthquake prediction from differential GPS measurements of tectonic movements. After a brief period in industry, he earned his PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, also from ETH Zurich, working on developing a computer vision system to control the action of a nanorobot. Through this work he became interested in the information theoretical principles of resolution in light microscopy. During a visit at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, he learned about the Green Fluorescent Protein and the opportunities the cloning of this molecule lent to the visualization of proteins in living cell. He realized the transformative potential such experiments would offer to cell biologists, but also the enormous data analysis challenges this technology would bring upon the life science community. Thus, he moved to Woods Hole for his postdoc to start working on the application of computer vision to live cell movies. The guiding thread through his career has been to make discoveries by computer vision of molecular and cellular mechanisms that are inaccessible by human observation. He and his lab mates have contributed models of cell migration, cell division, molecular trafficking, and chemical signaling to the field of cell biology. The most recent work leverages these models to understand the mechanisms of cancer cell adaptation. Before moving to Dallas, he held faculty positions at ETH Zurich, The Scripps Research Institute, and Harvard Medical School. He is a passionate educator who enjoys experimenting with new didactic formats.

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On Friday, May 17, 2019, Kennedy Reed from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory joined us to present "Physics in Africa."

Physicists in African universities are confronted with daunting challenges in their efforts to train students and conduct research. Many of them are well trained and highly motivated scientists who have chosen to work toward building physics programs in their home countries - in spite of difficult circumstances and meager resources.

Science and technology can play an important role in addressing the critical needs of developing nations in Sub-Saharan Africa. But support for advanced education and research in the physical sciences is very limited in these countries. A few international organizations have programs that provide some level of support for physics in developing regions, including Africa. There have also been some efforts to encourage scientific links between physicists in Africa and physicists in other parts of the world.

This presentation will discuss some of my experiences working as a visiting scientist in African universities. It will also cover some work directed at promoting collaborations and exchanges that connect African scientists and institutions with their counterparts in the U.S. and other developed countries. Such interactions may prove to be important elements in the development of science and technology in Africa. They might also provide opportunities for scientists in other regions to benefit from the expertise and resourcefulness of African physicists.

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On Friday, May 17, 2019, graduate students and postdocs from OSU joined us to present a Pre-Yunker Lecture Department poster session featuring 10+ works in the department.

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On Friday, April 20, 2018, Laura H. Greene, Marie Krafft Professor of Physics at Florida State University and Chief Scientist of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory joined us to present "The Dark Energy of Quantum Materials."

Superconductivity is a fascinating quantum mechanical phenomenon with applications that include the lossless transmission of electrical power, levitating trains, making huge magnetic fields, and detecting the tiniest magnetic fields. Conventional superconductivity was discovered in 1911 but the theoretical explanation did not come until 1957. High temperature superconductivity, discovered in 1986, is unconventional and we still don't have a theory that explains it. There are dozens of other types of unconventional superconductors that we cannot explain. In my lecture, I will explore superconductivity and the bizarre behaviors of quantum materials, showing some of the exciting applications. I will explain in simple terms what we do know, and give a perspective on how much we still have to learn. Superconductivity reminds me of the universe itself: we use it every day, it's very useful, and mostly, we don't know very much about it.

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On Thursday, May 4, 2017, Nigel Lockyer, Director of Fermilab, joined us to present "Fermilab: 50 years of discovery".

What are we made of? How did the universe begin? What secrets do the smallest, most elemental particles of matter hold and how can they help us understand the intricacies of space and time?

Since 1967, Fermilab has worked to answer these and other fundamental questions. Join us to hear Nigel Lockyer discuss 50 years or Fermilab, particle physics in the United States and its influence on our society.

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On Tuesday, May 17, 2016, Meg Urry from Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Yale University and Israel Munson Professor of Physics and Director, joined us to present "Black Holes and the Evolving Universe."

Black holes formed at the centers of galaxies in our young universe, and over the next 13 billion years or so accreted enormous amounts of matter from the surrounding galaxy. Presently, a black hole and its host galaxy have grown in mass by factors of a million or more, possibly in lockstep. Dr. Urry will discuss alternative descriptions of a black hole, explain how recent multi-wavelength surveys have allowed us to take a census of black hole growth, and present the big picture: What the evolution of the universe over the last 13 billion years would look like based on computer simulations and future prospects for observing black hole growth.

Meg Urry is the President of the American Astronomical Society, Director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, and the Israel Munson Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Yale University.

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On Monday, May 4, 2015, Howard Stone, Donald R. Dixon ’69 and Elizabeth W. Dixon Professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University, joined us to present "Fascination with Fluids and Flows."

Fluid mechanics is often viewed as a mature scientific discipline. One of the remarkable aspects of the subject is its relevance to an enormous variety of phenomena. The designs of airplanes, sailing vessels, birds, insects, and fish are all largely determined by principles of fluid mechanics. The physiology of our bodies is impacted by fluid dynamics principles, whether we consider the movement of red blood cells that squeeze through the small capillaries of the microcirculation or the delivery of drugs orally or in the blood stream. Almost all industrial processing requires handling materials in the fluid state, whether we are making large meter-scale sheets of glass for the world’s skyscrapers or depositing thin, submicrometer thick films for coatings and lithographic processes. At the largest scales of life on earth we need to understand the fluid movements of air in the atmosphere, water in the oceans, and ice sheets in the arctic regions. Thus, the eternal relevance of fluid mechanics is linked to understanding all of life’s processes, spanning those that are natural, industrial, and planetary. The subject is also one with continual surprises that provide intellectual challenges and important bridges to other disciplines. We will illustrate some of these themes by (I) highlighting the effect of fluid motion on biofilms, (ii) new observations on the impact of flow on the motility of bacteria on surfaces, and (iii) surprising features of flow in a T-junction, which is perhaps the most common element in many piping systems. In this way we will gain exposure to a world of ideas relevant to industry, physiology, and environmental health.

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On Monday, October 13, 2014, Eric Cornell, Fellow of JILA, NIST & University of Colorado at Boulder, and Professor Adjoint of Physics at University of Colorado, joined us to present "Particle paleontology: looking for fossils from the early universe inside the electron."

In the earliest instants of the universe, a tiny but essential deviation from perfect symmetry made possible the existence of the universe we now live in. Fourteen billion years later, is it possible to find a "fossil" left over from that fateful early imperfection? In an effort to answer that question, we are taking a very very close look at the humblest and most commonplace particle, the electron. Instead of the traditional tools of particle physics (accelerators and spark chambers) our lab uses ultraprecise molecular spectroscopy, looking for milliHertz line shifts in the electron spin resonance of trapped metal fluoride ions.

Eric Cornell is a Fellow of JILA, NIST and University of Colorado at Boulder,and co-winner, with Carl Weiman and Wolfgang Ketterle, of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics.

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On Friday, November 11, 2011, Philip Kim, Professor of Physics at Columbia University, joined us to present "Relativity, Quantum Physics, and Graphene."

The two most important achievements in physics in the 20th century were the discoveries of the theory of relativity and quantum physics. In 1928, Paul Dirac synthesized these two theories and wrote the Dirac equation to describe particles moving close to the speed of light in a quantum mechanical way, and thus initiated the beginning of relativistic quantum mechanics. Graphene, a single atomic layer of graphite discovered only a few years ago, has been provided physicists opportunities to explore an interesting analogy to relativistic quantum mechanics. The unique electronic structure of graphene yields an energy and momentum relation mimicking that of relativistic quantum particles, providing opportunities to explore exotic and exciting science and potential technological applications based on the flat carbon form. As a pure, flawless, single-atom-thick crystal, graphene conducts electricity faster at room temperature than any other substance. While engineers envision a range of products made of graphene, such as ultrahigh-speed transistors and flat panel display, physicists are finding the material enables them to test a theory of exotic phenomena previously thought to be observable only in black holes and high-energy particle accelerators. In this presentation I will discuss the brief history of graphene research and their implications in science and technology.

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On Friday, November 12, 2010, Taekjip Ha, Professor of Physics and Center for Biophysics and Computational Biology at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, joined us to present "Single Molecule Nanometry for Biological Physics."

Precision measurement is a hallmark of physics but the small length scale (~nanometer) of elementary biological processes and the thermal fluctuations surrounding them challenge our ability to visualize the motion of biological molecules. In this talk, I will highlight the recent developments in single molecule nanometry where a position of a single fluorescent molecule can be determined with a single nanometer precision, reaching the limit imposed by the shot noise. The relative motion between two molecules can be determined with ~0.3 nm precision at ~ 1 milliseconds time resolution, providing fundamental insights on how motor proteins move on cellular highways. Finally, I will show our recent progress in combining angstrom scale optical tweezers with single molecule fluorescent detection, opening new avenues for multi-dimensional single molecule nanometry for biological physics.

Professor Taekjip Ha received his Ph.D. in Physics in 1996, from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to joining the Physics faculty at the University of Illinois in August 2000, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (1997) and a postdoctoral research associate in Steven Chu's laboratory in the Department of Physics at Stanford University (1998-2000). He was named 2001 Searle scholar. In 2005, Dr. Ha was named an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In 2008, Dr. Ha was selected by the National Science Foundation to receive a grant to establish and co-direct the Center for the Physics of Living Cells at the University of Illinois.
Professor Ha has achieved many "firsts" in experimental biological physics--the first dectection of dipole-dipole interaction (fluorescence resonance energy transfer, or FRET) between two single molecules; the first observation of "quantum jumps" of single molecules at room temperature; the first detection of the rotation of single molecules; and the first detection of enzyme conformational changes via single-molecule FRET. His most recent work, using single-molecule measurements to understand protein-DNA interactions and enzyme dynamics, has led him to develop novel optical techniques, fluid-handling systems, and surface preparations.

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On Wednesday, June 3, 2009, Paul L. McEuen, Goldwin Smith Professor of Physics at Cornell University joined us to present "Small is All: Nano, Bio, and the Future of Technology."

For over half a century, miniaturization has been the dominant force driving technological progress. While airplanes and automobiles have hardly changed, the ever-shrinking integrated circuit has taken us from the 10-pound adding machine to the 5-ounce Blackberry. The next 50 years promise even bigger change as everything from medical labs to satellites get shrunk to the size of postage stamps. In this talk, I will examine why small is so big, look at a few examples of shrinking technologies, and speculate how nano will change your life, for good and ill.

Paul McEuen is a world expert on the science and technology of nanostructures. He is a pioneer of single molecule devices, scanning probe microscopy of nanostructures and applications of nanoelectronics in chemistry and biology. His research group publishes their work frequently in Nature and Science. He was co-organizer of the 2007 Kavli Futures Symposium.

There will be a reception in Weniger 377 starting at 16:00.

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On Thursday, March 6, 2008, Edward W. Kolb, Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor at University of Chicago joined us to present "Mysteries of the Dark Universe."

Ninety-five percent of the universe is missing! Astronomical observations suggest that most of the mass of the universe is in a mysterious form called "dark matter" and most of the energy in the universe is in an even more mysterious form called "dark energy." Unlocking the secrets of dark matter and dark energy will illuminate the nature of space and time and connect the quantum world with the cosmos.

On Monday, November 6, 2006, W.E. Moerner, Harry S. Mosher Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University, joined us to present "Visualizing Single Molecules with Lasers."

Many of us have heard about lasers, which produce a special kind of light - but what is special about laser light? Moreover, how can we use laser light to detect and probe a single molecule? Can one single molecule actually be "seen"? Finally, can a single molecule be observed inside a living cell, and what does this tell us? This lecture will provide answers to these questions, and will introduce the audience to a growing new field of science based on using single molecules as tiny, 1 nanometer-sized sources of light. These light sources are being used in diverse areas ranging from single-photon sources to the illumination of complex biological systems in action.

On Wednesday, March 2, 2005, Sylvester James Gates Jr., John S. Toll Professor of Physics and Center for String and Particle Theory Director, University of Maryland joined us to present "Can Cosmological Concordance Occur With Superstring/M-theory in the Heavens?"

The structure of the Concordance Model of modern cosmology is discussed. The consistency of Superstring/M-theory with the CM provides a challenge for theoretical physics.

On Sunday, March 2, 2003, Helen Quinn, Professor, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University joined us to present "The Asymmetry Between Matter and Antimatter."

.On Saturday, March 3, 2001, Thomas Rossing, Professor of Physics & Distinguished Research Professor, Northern Illinois University joined us to present "Sound, Music, and Physics."

Physics has much in common with the arts; a classic example is the close relationship of physics and music. We will discuss the physics of music (or musical acoustics, as it is often called), including the way in which musical istruments produce sound, the way sound is transmitted to the listener (in a concert hall or by means of recordings), and the perception of the music by the listener. The physics of musical instruments embodies many interesting examples of linear and nonlinear vibrations. Examples of sound production in string, wind, and percussion instruments will be presented.

On March 2, 2000, Arthur J. Freeman, Morrison Professor of Physics, Northwestern University joined us joined us to present "A New Age of Computational Materials Science: A Scientific Revolution Unfolds."

The Ages of Civilization have been defined by the particular new materials that have been mastered. More than ever, advances in materials are driving far reaching developments in all aspects of our society. It is now widely recognized that computational modeling and simulation are spearheading the unfolding of a new scientific revolution brought about by (i) the dramatic advances in condensed matter theory, especially electronic structure theory (now formally acknowledged with the award of a Nobel Prize for density functional theory to Walter Kohn in 1998), and (ii) their successful application to real materials problems made possible by utilizing the continued explosive growth of computer power. We will demonstrate how the well recognized goal driving computation physics - simulations of ever-increasing complexity on more and more realistic models - has been brought into greater focus with the introduction of massively parallel computer platforms. These simulations of now serve to fill the increasingly urgent demands of scientists and engineers. Some examples are presented to demonstrate the power of this advanced methodology for treating the structural, electronic, magnetic, optical and mechanical properties of real life.

On Tuesday, March 2, 1999, Ted Geballe, Emeritus Professor of Applied Physics and of Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University joined us to present "Magnetic and Superconducting Materials: The Old and the New."

Magnetic materials have been known since antiquity. Many creative, romantic (but unscientific) ideas were invoked over the ensuing centuries to explain the mysterious forces of the lodestone. Not until the discoveries of quantum mechanics in the late 1920"s that it was possible to reach a scientific understanding of most magnetic metals and magnetic insulators, and then it took only a short time to do so. However there exists a class of materials, which strangely enough includes lodestone, where the electrons responsible for the magnetism cannot be described as tightly bound (as in insulators) or nearly free (as in metals) which are not well understood. Superconductivity in contrast to ancient magnetism is a discovery of the 20th century which was made almost immediately following the liquefaction of helium gas, although from what we now know it could have been discovered in the liquid nitrogen available in the previous century. Until recently magnetism and superconductivity, for well understood reasons, were found to be almost mutually exclusive. In the past decade a deep and not-yet-satisfactorily-understood relationship between the two has emerged from studies of transition metal oxides in the same regime mentioned above where the electrons cannot be described in simple local or itinerant terms, but rather are highly correlated. The major frontier of condensed matter science today is the study of materials in which the electrons are highly correlated, particularly the colossal magnetoresistance manganites and the high temperature superconducting cuprates I will give examples from ongoing intensive world wide efforts.

On Monday, March 2nd, 1998, Carl Wieman, Professor of Physics, University of Colorado joined us to present "Creating a New Form of Matter at the Coldest Temperature in the Universe."

Wieman is a member of the physics faculty at the University of Colorado and a fellow of the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics in Boulder. He is a native of Corvallis and a graduate of Corvallis High School. He received his physics degrees at MIT and Stanford. His work has been recognized with a number of awards, including the Lawrence Prize of the U.S. Department of Energy and the Davisson-Germer Award in Atomic Physics of the American Physical Society. Wieman's research is based on a 1924 prediction by Albert Einstein that a new form of matter, called the Bose-Einstein condensation, would result if a gas were cooled to extremely low temperatures. In 1995, Wieman's research group became the first to observe this condensation by cooling a collection of atoms to within one millionth of a degree above absolute zero. The talk will discuss the techniques used to cool atoms to low temperatures and the unusual properties of this new form of matter.

On Sunday, March 2, 1997, Douglas Osheroff, J.G. Jackson and C.J. Wood Professor of Physics, Stanford University joined us to present "Superfluidity in Helium Three: Discovery and Understanding."

On Saturday, March 2, 1996 Peter Franken, Professor of Physics, University of Arizona, joined us to present "Municipal Waste, Recycling, and Nuclear Garbage."

On Thursday, March 2, 1995, John Clarke, Professor of Physics, University of California, Berkeley, joined us to present "High Temperature Superconductivity, SQUIDs and Brains."

On Wednesday, March 2, 1994, Anthony Leggett, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Chair and Center for Advanced Study Professor of Physics, University of Illinois joined us to present "Does the Everyday World Really Obey Quantum Mechanics?"

On Tuesday, March 2, 1993, Daniel Kleppner, Lester Wolfe Professor of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, joined us to present "Science, Science Bashing, and the Descent into Wooliness."

On Monday, March 2, 1992, David Mermin, Horace White Professor of Physics, Cornell University joined us to present "The Vision of Einstein, the Caution of Bohr."

On Saturday, March 2, 1991, Vera Rubin, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Institution of Washington, joined us to present "What Newton Didn’t Know about the Universe."

On Friday, March 2, 1990, Blas Cabrera, Professor of Physics, Stanford University, joined us to present "What is the Dark Matter Around our Galaxy?"

On Thursday, March 2, 1989, Kip Thorne, The William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor, California Institute of Technology joined us to present "Time and Time Travel Through Hyperspace: A Physicist Looks at Two Topics from Science Fiction."

On Wednesday, January 6, 1988, Richard Garwin, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, joined us to present "Space Defense and the Future of Nuclear Weapons."

On Monday, March 2, 1987, Leon Lederman, Director, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, joined us to present "The Supercollider: What, Why, and How?"

On Sunday, March 2, 1986, Richard Muller, Professor of Physics, California Institute of Technology joined us to present "Dinosaurs, Comet Storms, and Nemesis."

On Saturday, March 2, 1985, Gary Steigman, Professor of Physics, Ohio State University, joined us to present "Cosmic Connections."