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Flip Tanedo | USLHC | USA

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A couple of lectures: the science of nuclear meltdowns & Coleman’s QFT

Lecture on Fukushima radiation

Forgive me for digressing a bit from the LHC focus of this blog, but I wanted to take time to share a timely and accessible public lecture by UCSB particle physicist Benjamin Monreal about the science of the Fukushima reactor meltdowns in Japan. I strongly recommend it for those who want to be able to make sense of the news regarding radiation in Japan and elsewhere.

One of our jobs as scientists is to be there to inform the public when something like this happens, and Benjamin rises to the occasion with exceptional clarity. As he mentions towards the end of his talk, it is often the case that misinformation is one of the biggest dangers after an event like this, and he goes a long way to explain what’s actually going on. I learned quite a lot from the presentation and it has helped me provide a proper scientific context for the news about the region.

It’s always very difficult to cope with the aftermath of a natural disaster on the scale of the Tohoku earthquake two weeks ago. The particle physics community is especially international and the news of the disaster hit quite close to home for many of us with friends and colleagues in Japan. Our hearts go out to everyone affected.

Coleman’s QFT Lectures

Sidney Coleman. Image from L. Motl.

Now to change gears quite a bit, I’d like to share another link that has been making a splash in particle physics circles: a typed up version of Sidney Coleman’s 1985-1986 Physics 253a quantum field theory course at Harvard, thanks to the heroic typesetting efforts of Bryan Gin-ge Chen and Ting Yuan Sen. (See also the videos of the lectures from 1975-76.) The link is perhaps most useful for young physicists who are learning field theory (or older physicists who are teaching field theory), but as a concession for the non-physicists reading this blog, here’s a link to Coleman’s well known seminar, “Quantum Mechanics in your face.”

Let me provide some background. Sidney Coleman is one of the towering figures of theoretical physics in our time and one of the true masters of quantum field theory. While he doesn’t have the same popular image as Richard Feynman, his unique charm and wit as well as his dexterity as a teacher are nothing short of legendary in the physics community.

Coleman’s life and work were commemorated at Harvard in 2005 at “Sidneyfest.” The list of famous presenters and speakers speak volumes about Coleman’s influence. Sadly, Coleman passed away in 2007. He left behind an indelible mark on the history of quantum field theory as well as several lectures (most notably his Erice lectures, published in Aspects of Symmetry) which continue to educate generation after generation of particle physicists.

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