The bizarre world of low temperatures
"The bizarre world of low temperatures" was the theme of a quite extraordinary public lecture held on campus recently as part of the University's 50th anniversary celebrations. An audience of over 200 packed into the Faraday Lecture Theatre on the evening of Monday 30th June to witness an amazing double act by Physics Nobel Laureate and honorary Lancaster graduate Professor David Lee (Texas A&M University) and Fellow of the Royal Society Professor George Pickett (Lancaster University).
Professor Lee described the ground-breaking research that he and colleagues at Cornell University performed in the early 1970's leading to the discovery of the superfluid phases of liquid helium-3. Superfluids are an exotic phase of matter where fluids become friction-free and can even flow uphill! The significance of this work was recognised by the award of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1996. In Lee's Nobel Prize citation, credit was given for important contributory work on helium-3 carried out at Lancaster by Professor Pickett and his research group and, indeed, George was a special invited guest at the 1996 Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm.
Professor Pickett's part of the lecture explained some of the physics that controls the low temperature world, illustrated with entertaining demonstrations using liquid nitrogen live on stage. He also described how liquid helium could be used to perform a laboratory simulation of cosmological phenomena that may have occurred shortly after the Big Bang, nearly 14 billion years ago.
Most of the audience also took advantage of the opportunity to take a tour of Lancaster's world-leading low temperature physics laboratories and the opportunity to chat with the speakers over a glass of wine at the conclusion of the lecture.
Earlier in the day, Professor Lee also participated in a session of A-level physics students visiting the Physics department from Caldew School, Cumbria. The Department's School Outreach Officer, Phil Furneaux, invited Professor Lee to drop in on the students whilst they were carrying out some experiments in our undergraduate teaching laboratories. Although initially unaware of who was assisting them with their experiments, they soon discovered that they were working with a Nobel Prize winning physicist. Not a bad story to be able to take back to school at the end of the visit!
Fri 04 July 2014
In the REF2014 Research Excellence Framework the Lancaster Physics Department was ranked 2nd in the UK for the amount of its research output judged to be of internationally leading (4 star) quality. Indeed, 28% of our publications submitted for assessment were deemed to belong in the top bracket.
Thu 18 December 2014
Researchers in the Physics Department's Space Plasma Environment and Radio Science (SPEARS) Group have been awarded £923,000 by the Science and Technology Facilities Council to study the plasma environments within our solar system.
Fri 21 November 2014
Professor Jim Wild, jointly with colleagues at the University of Leicester, has secured a NERC award of £423,000, £123,000 of which will come to Lancaster.
Fri 07 November 2014
On 24th October, forty teachers from across the South Lakes area visited the Faculty of Science and Technology, as part of a partnership between Lancaster University, Research Council UK, and the South Lakes Federation.
Thu 06 November 2014