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Minutes of the June 8, 2019 TheoryNet Meeting

Physics TheoryNet Meeting, June 8, 2019

Room 218 Dana Building, Northeastern University






Brent Nelson — Northeastern University

Scott Goelzer — Coe-Brown Northwood Academy

Mike Wadness — Medford HS

Ken Olum — Tufts University

Russell Sears — Cohasset HS



Michael Hirsh — Needham HS

Nancy Najmi — Reading Memorial HS

Chris Siren — Groton-Dunstable Regional HS

John Samperisi — Monadnock Regional HS

Matthew Headrick — Brandeis University

Elaine Picard — Concord-Carlisle HS

Nivedi Das — Sharon HS

George Odell — North Andover HS

Richard Levergood — Londonderry HS

Jesse Thaler — MIT

Phiala Shanahan — MIT

James Halverson — Northeastern University

Liam Fitzpatrick — Boston University

Jiji Fan — Brown University

Per Berglund — University of New Hampshire

Tomasz Taylor — Northeastern University

Daniel Jafferis — Harvard University

Matt Reece — Harvard University


A. School Visits


Mike Wadness (Medford). While not reporting on a class visit, we learned that a former student at Medford HS got to participate on the Event Horizon telescope collaboration, and was even made an author on a research paper. The former student, now at UMass Boston, was a guest speaker who returned to describe the experience. He credited his interest in astronomy to programs like TheoryNet that bring in guest speakers. He also noted the importance of coding skills, in particular writing code to analyze images


Michael Hirsch (Needham). Jim Halverson came in May and met with an AP Physics class. He spoke about this background and research. Then — at student request — he lead a freewheeling discussion and Q & A session on string theory, particles, black holes, and time travel. It was described by at least one student as “his best day in high school”.


Russell Sears (Cohasset). Tom Taylor came to two classes of 30 each in November. 


Ken Olum (Tufts). Went to ReadingHS  to meet with Nancy Najmi’s classes. She had moved the 7:30am class to come join at a later time! The primary topic was gravitational waves — in fact an event was detected at LIGO just 12 hours after the presentation! Students seemed to appreciate the “real time” nature of gravitational astronomy and event reporting by LIGO (and other observational experiments).


Rick Dower (emeritus) gave us a cameo visit. He has an invitation to give a talk on x-ray astro/deliver workshops on particle physics in Cape Town. Rick extended a standing offer to come and talk to high schools about his involvement in x-ray astronomy.



B. Equipment:


Scott Goelzer continues to be a Godsend for TheoryNet in terms of housing for our experimental equipment. The housing for the microwave experiment is now finished. In addition, the box for the bulky (and heavy!) Cavendish experiment is complete and beautiful! Note that the replacement torsion ribbons for this experiment have been ordered and are now in our possession.


For the Helmholtz oils, it turns out that the fuses were not the problem. A new power supply was purchased, and we hope to learn that this apparatus is back “on line:.


The electron diffraction experiment is easy to use (I — a theorist — have used it often in my classes!) and the experiments associated with the apparatus are generally reliable and easy to perform. It was suggested that we purchase another instance of this experiment, and we will look into this in the 19-20 academic year.



C. Other Business:


Discussion was had to consider strategies to deal with the overall declining attendance at meetings. There are many contributing issues, but Northeastern pledged to consider the opportunities to allow for virtual attendance at meetings generally, and how we might even make certain meetings (such as the mid-year meeting in the snowy mid-Winter) fully virtual. It was decided to discuss this in greater length when more members are present, such as the next kick-off fall meeting.



D. Next Meeting:


The suggestion was to aim for 9/21 as the next TheoryNet meeting.



Brent Nelson

Northeastern University