From quantum weirdness to quantum technologies
Quantum mechanics arose out of trying to understand how the world works on the atomic scale. A century later, it has revolutionised our understanding of the laws of the universe; many long-held ideas, such as the possibility to watch an object without disturbing it, have been turned upside down in the process. In this talk I will run through some basic concepts of quantum mechanics and show they are no longer just theoretical curiosities but well-established realities. I will focus on what is being termed the next industrial revolution, where we will start exploiting the power of quantum mechanics to communicate with absolute secrecy, produce computers that can solve problems ordinary computers cannot, develop sensors that are more sensitive than is otherwise possible, and build super-efficient engines.
Transient astronomy - bursts, bangs and things that go bump in the night
Often when we view the Universe in a new way, new and unexpected phenomena are discovered. Recent developments in detectors (for example CCDs) and in computers are now allowing astronomers to search systematically for short duration phenomena – flares, bursts and other kinds of changes in the brightness of stars and galaxies. Some such phenomena were already known (supernovae, for example), and some have been accidentally discovered (gamma ray bursts, for example). There has also recently been more systematic searching for moving objects, such as asteroids that might impact the earth.
We are now entering a new phase with more and bigger telescopes, larger data flows, and observations with new, lower frequency, radio telescopes. This talk will describe this burgeoning field and speculate on what might be found.
Rosetta: To Catch a Comet!
The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission captured the imagination of the world in 2014, as it rendezvoused with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and deployed a lander, Philae, to its surface. In this talk, I'll give a behind-the-scenes view of the mission, its history, the 10-year journey to reach the comet, and the exciting events that have been taking place there. I'll talk about some of the challenges and risks involved in the mission, and give some idea of what scientists are finding as they unlock this treasure chest of information about the formation of our solar system, the origins of water and perhaps even life on Earth. And to end, a look forward to the final phase of the mission, now that Rosetta, Philae, and the comet are past their closest approach to the Sun and heading back out into the cold.
Fluid Mechanics: from simple applications to operational oceanography
Fluid dynamics has many important practical applications, and is consequently of immense technological and economic significance. The movement of a gas or liquid (collectively referred to as 'fluids') is called the 'flow', and its study is called 'fluid mechanics'. The atmosphere (gas) and ocean (liquid) are essential environments for organisms that inhabit them naturally, and for daily men’s activities. Information about the sea has served navigators to exploit ocean winds and currents, merchants to reach distant harbours, fishermen to ascertain their catches, and navies to master ocean space. The practical study of the sea has in the last two decades leaped forward with the advancement in science and technology, improved sensors to observe it by direct measurements as well as remotely from space, and in particular with the progress in numerical modelling techniques and information technology applications. The ultimate objective is to learn enough about the structure and motions of the ocean to be able to predict its future state. The simulation of turbulent water mixing in harbours is required to understand the sea currents and circulation within the bays and thereby to quantify the water renewal within the basins.
The Physical Oceanography Research Group (PO-Res.Grp) in Malta is involved in various research activities and also provides various scientific services. The group's oceanographic research includes operational observations and model forecasts, specialised data management analysis and participation in international cooperative ventures. The research themes of the PO-Res.Grp cover coastal meteorology, hydrography and physical oceanography with a main emphasis on the experimental study of the hydrodynamics of the sea in the vicinity of the Maltese Islands.
Building the world's largest Radio Telescope: The Square Kilometer Array
The Square Kilometer Array (SKA), when built, will be the largest radio telescope in existence, with a total collecting area of approximately one square kilometer and will be 50 times more sensitive than any other radio instrument. Several countries and a large number of institutes are involved in designing, prototyping and testing all the components making up the multi-part telescope. The SKA is predominantly a software-telescope, whereby most of the signal processing, online analysis and data transport is performed in software. In this talk I will provide an overview of how to build a radio telescope, and focus on the efforts being expended to build the SKA. The talk will mostly focus on the signal processing and software aspect of radio telescope, and delve into the staggering requirements of the SKA and how to tackle them: an exaflop supercomputer, an exabyte a day of raw data, managing hundreds of thousand of antennas and dishes.