39 posts categorized "Physics"


USciences Physics Students Attend PhysCon in San Francisco

Students from USciences’ Society of Physics Students (SPS) traveled to San Francisco, Calif. in November 2016 for PhysCon, the quadrennial physics conference held by the National Society of Physics Students.

From Left to Right: Caitlyn McConnell, Oberon Wackwitz, Mia Vega, Katee O'Malley, Luke Conover toured San Francisco during PhysCon.

During the trip the group attended the conference, hearing from Dr. S. James Gates, a theoretical physicist known for his work in supersymmetry, who recently won the National Medal of Science for his outstanding contributions to the field of physics, and Nobel Laureate Dr. Eric Cornell. Additionally, the students participated in workshops and presented research.

“It was great to be surrounded by 1,000 physics majors who all have different ambitions within the field,” said Katee O’Malley Phys’17.

In addition to O’Malley, Caitlyn McConnell BMS’18, Phys’18, Mia Vega Phys’19, Oberon Wackwitz Phys’17, and Luke Conover Phys’17 attended the conference representing USciences and said that the experience was eye opening and fun.

“I walked away feeling empowered,” said McConnell. “It doesn’t matter who you are, you are capable of accomplishing anything.”

The students also visited the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, a two-mile long national accelerator laboratory, which has been integral to many astounding discoveries in physics.

From Left to Right: Mia Vega, Caitlyn McConnell, Oberon Wackwitz, Katee O'Malley, and Luke Conover toured the SLAC laboratory.

Vega, who is unsure about what path she wants to take upon graduation, said the best part was a workshop about the career opportunities for individuals graduating with a bachelor’s degree in physics. She said it helped her recognize different job opportunities in industry, higher education, and teaching.  Vega presented at the conference on behalf of the group about the outreach that USciecnes’ SPS has done to encourage young women to pursue STEM fields.

“At the conference I saw that most schools do not have the same diversity that I see every day at USciences,” said Vega. “I am now more inspired to help create safe spaces for physics students because it is important that every young physicist, despite their skin color or sex know how valuable they are.”

Before returning to Philadelphia, the group fit in some sightseeing as well, visiting Fisherman’s Warf, Pier 39, and the Golden Gate Bridge.


Physics Prof's Book Discusses 'How Two Great Minds Battled Quantum Randomness to Create a Unified Theory of Physics'

BookA sabbatical research project two years ago at University of the Sciences inspired physics professor Dr. Paul Halpern’s new book “Einstein’s Dice and Schrodinger’s Cat:  How Two Great Minds Battled Quantum Randomness to Create a Unified Theory of Physics.”  Dr. Halpern is no stranger to authorship, as he has penned more than a dozen popular science books.

“Basically, my new book tells the story of how the friendship between Einstein and Schrodinger developed through their mutual dislike of quantum uncertainty, flourished as they sought a ‘theory of everything,’ and then crumbled during an international media fiasco,” said Dr. Halpern.

Dr. Halpern said that Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger were friends and comrades-in-arms against what they considered the most preposterous aspects of quantum physics: its indeterminacy. Even though it was Einstein’s own theories that made quantum mechanics possible, both he and Schrödinger could not bear the idea that the universe was, at its most fundamental level, random.

Here’s an excerpt from the book’s description:

“Einstein famously quipped that God does not play dice with the universe, and Schrödinger is equally well known for his thought experiment about the cat in the box who ends up "spread out" in a probabilistic state, neither wholly alive nor wholly dead. Both of these famous images arose from these two men's dissatisfaction with quantum weirdness and with their assertion that underneath it all, there must be some essentially deterministic world. Even though it was Einstein's own theories that made quantum mechanics possible, both he and Schrödinger could not bear the idea that the universe was, at its most fundamental level, random.

 “As the Second World War raged, both men struggled to produce a theory that would describe in full the universe's ultimate design, first as collaborators, then as competitors. They both ultimately failed in their search for a Theory of Everything—not only because quantum mechanics is true, but because Einstein and Schrödinger were also missing a key component: of the four forces we recognize today (gravity, electromagnetism, the weak force, and the strong force), only gravity and electromagnetism were known at the time.

 “Despite their failures, though, much of modern physics remains focused on the search for a Theory of Everything. As Halpern explains, the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson makes the Standard Model—the closest thing we have to a unified theory—nearly complete. And while Einstein and Schrödinger tried and failed to explain everything in the cosmos through pure geometry, the development of string theory has, in its own quantum way, brought this idea back into vogue. As in so many things, even when he was wrong, Einstein couldn't help but be right.”

Dr. Halpern is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholarship, and an Athenaeum Literary Award. He has also appeared on numerous radio and television shows including Future Quest, Radio Times, several shows on the History Channel, and The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special.

For more information regarding Dr. Halpern’s new book, or to make a purchase, click here.


Physics Prof to Explore Solar System, Cosmology with Philly Youth

YALE-Paul-HalpernPhysics professor Paul Halpern, PhD, visited the Y.A.L.E. School’s Cherry Hill campus for “Read Across America” last spring, where he discussed cosmology and the solar system with students, as well as signed copies of his books.

Well, with the launch of Y.A.L.E. School's Philadelphia campus this year, Dr. Halpern was invited back to serve as the guest presenter for the school's open house on Thursday, Oct. 30, from 7-9 p.m., at its new building located at 4101 Freeland Ave. in Philadelphia.

"Dr. Halpern presented an assembly to the students at the Y.A.L.E. School Cherry Hill campus last year and the kids LOVED it," according to Y.A.L.E.'s website. "It should be a fascinating look at teaching science to kids on the spectrum or with social communication disorder."


Nearly 100 Philly Middle Schoolers Explore STEM Careers at USciences

IMG_1861As part of an ongoing commitment to Philadelphia schools and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, University of the Sciences hosted its first Career Day for Middle School Students on May 9.

Held in conjunction with state Rep. James Roebuck (D-Philadelphia), University City Science Center, and three local middle schools, a half-day program focusing on STEM careers was developed by USciences faculty and staff for nearly 100 local students from Samuel B. Huey School, Jubilee School, and The City School.

University president Helen Giles-Gee, PhD, kicked off the day with welcome remarks, which included her hope and expectation that one day the young students would attend USciences. The fifth-graders were also given a tour of USciences’ campus by student ambassadors, and participated in a science expo held by students and faculty from chemistry, biology, mathematics, physics, pharmacy, and pharmacology/toxicology programs.

IMG_1829They had the opportunity to participate in hands-on demonstrations and experiments highlighting the STEM academic disciplines, and then experienced lunch in a college dining hall. The day wrapped up with a presentation on career interest and exploration.

Click here to see all photos from the day.

Participating staff and faculty, included: Kimberly Bryant, director of career services; Kevin Wolbach, interim associate dean of Misher College of Arts and Sciences; Catherine Bentzley, PhD, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Grace Farber, PhD, assistant professor of biology; Carl Walasek, statistics instructor; Scott Greene, director of the Student Excellence and Professional Preparation programs; Mary Kate McGinty, director of government and community affairs; and Danielle Stollak, program manager of University City Science Center's STEAM Initiatives.


VIDEO: 6abc Highlights Students, Faculty at USciences Research Day

6abc showcased the diversity and growth of research pursuits at University of the Sciences during its 12th Annual Research Day and 27th Annual John C. Krantz, Jr., Distinguished Lecture on Thursday, April 10. Research Day recognizes and highlights the research efforts of faculty, as well as undergraduate and graduate students, to encourage and promote communication and collaboration among researchers.
USciences distinguishes itself by offering undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct research early in their academic careers. The diverse research activity that was on display spanned several aspects of the University’s scholarly pursuits, including:
  • Determining occupational therapists’ role in working with pediatric cancer patients
  • Discovering the personality traits that cause adolescents to kill
  • Using yoga to improve quality of life for patients with anorexia nervosa
  • Identifying predictors of successful post-secondary transitions for autistic students


The Biggest Mistakes Transfer Students Make

Viggiani_aimeeChoosing which college to attend is a huge decision for students. Whether they’ve earned their associate’s degrees from community colleges and ready to move on to earn their bachelor’s degrees, or currently enrolled in four-year schools that aren’t the right fit, one-third of all students transfer at least once before earning a degree.

Aimee Viggiani, associate director of transfer admissions, was recently featured in two articles which provide helpful tips for transfer students. She said, "All too often, students wait until too late in their college careers to ask why a certain class didn't transfer. Even if you don't need the credit right away, you may need it in the future. So ask transfer credit questions as soon as possible."


Astronomy for Children

Introducing young children to science history offers a way for them to understand the scientific method and the process of discovery.  Ideally, they can learn that science doesn’t always take a linear path, and sometimes there are stark reversals. 


Take for example, the discovery of Pluto, its classification as a planet, and its reclassification in 2006 as a “dwarf planet.” Clearly the definition of planets has taken twists and turns throughout the years. 


I recently completed a book project with illustrator Vance Lehmkuhl with the goal of presenting the history of Pluto’s discovery and demotion, as well as a brief history of the discovery of the Solar System’s planets in general.  More information about the book is at:

What's the Matter with Pluto? The Story of Pluto's Adventures with the Planet Club


The Simpsons as an Educational Tool for Math and Science

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the MINTIFF Conference in Berlin, Germany about using television shows such as The Simpsons as an educational tool.  Here is a video of my talk:




Earth: Our tiny enclave

Physics Professor Paul Halpern, author of "Edge of the Universe: A Voyage to the Cosmic Horizon and Beyond," writes that some of the most active advocates for peace have been scientists … (they) were among the scientific luminaries who worked tirelessly for global harmony. Perhaps their understanding of Earth's preciousness as the only known planet with life helped inspire their efforts.

Read more in the Philadelphia Inquirer.


New book: Edge of the Universe

I'm pleased to announce that my new book "Edge of the Universe: A Voyage to the Cosmic Horizon and Beyond" is now available.  It offers a look at cutting-edge theories in cosmology, the science of the universe.  Here's a link to more information:

Edge of the Universe: A Voyage to the Cosmic Horizon and Beyond


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