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Quantum Steampunk: The Physics of Yesterday's Tomorrow - A Popular Physics Talk by Nicole Yunger Halpern

Wednesday, 27 April in 404 Beckman Hall
Nicole Yunger Halpern will present a popular talk to the campus community on her new book, Quantum Steampunk: The Physics of Yesterday's Tomorrow:
The Industrial Revolution meets the quantum-technology revolution! A steampunk adventure guide to how mind-blowing quantum physics is transforming our understanding of information and energy.Victorian era steam engines and particle physics may seem worlds (as well as centuries) apart, yet a new branch of science, quantum thermodynamics, reenvisions the scientific underpinnings of the Industrial Revolution through the lens of today's roaring quantum information revolution. Classical thermodynamics, understood as the study of engines, energy, and efficiency, needs reimagining to take advantage of quantum mechanics, the basic framework that explores the nature of reality by peering at minute matters, down to the momentum of a single particle.In her exciting new book, intrepid Harvard-trained physicist Dr. Nicole Yunger Halpern introduces these concepts to the uninitiated with what she calls "quantum steampunk," after the fantastical genre that pairs futuristic technologies with Victorian sensibilities. While readers follow the adventures of a rag-tag steampunk crew on trains, dirigibles, and automobiles, they explore questions such as, "Can quantum physics revolutionize engines?" and "What deeper secrets can quantum information reveal about the trajectory of time?"Yunger Halpern also describes her own adventures in the quantum universe and provides an insider's look at the work of the scientists obsessed with its technological promise. Moving from fundamental physics to cutting-edge experimental applications, Quantum Steampunk explores the field's aesthetic, shares its whimsy, and gazes into the potential of a quantum future. The result is a blast for fans of science, science fiction, and fantasy.


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Superoscillations - Theoretical Aspects and Applications Symposium 2

view of Grand Hotel in San Marcos

Superoscillations were identified independently by Sir Michael Berry and Yakir Aharonov in very different contexts, but in the last several years the communities of mathematicians and physicists have taken increased interest in this phenomenon, both because of its interesting mathematical characteristics, and because of its many potential applications. This symposium is intended not only to present the state of the art on (theoretical and applied) research on superoscillations, but also to look at the future of this field. Click here for more conference info.

Mind and Agency in the Foundations of Quantum Physics

May 31 – June 3, 2022

In contrast to classical physics, quantum physics attributes special significance to the act of “measurement”. This has led to decades of discussions in the foundations of quantum theory. Our workshop brings together scientists and philosophers who see value in exploring whether this hints at the relevance of the first person in physics – the entity that performs the measurement. We will discuss information-theoretic, mathematical, and philosophical arguments that aim at evaluating the potential relation between quantum physics and the first person.

For example, does consciousness play a crucial role in quantum physics, as von Neumann and Wigner claimed decades ago and is this testable? Or are quantum states best interpreted as agent’s subjective degrees of belief about future experiences, as QBism asserts? Or does quantum theory hint at an ontology that is more akin to an idealist worldview? And what should we make of thought experiments involving observers and quantum mechanics, such as Wigner’s friend or Bell experiments with human choices?

Our participants and organizers have very different opinions on these questions, and our workshop will make these views collide head-on, in lively but respectful discussions. We hope to find some common ground and initiate discussions across fields that have so far remained separate. Click here for more conference info.