Thursday, March 29, 2018 - 11:30am
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Physics Department, 17 Oxford St., Jefferson 250, Cambridge

Widely Applied Math Lecture

Sir Michael Berry, Melville Wills Professor of Physics (Emeritus) at the University of Bristol, UK, will discuss "Nature’s Optics and Our Understanding of Light."

Optical phenomena visible to everyone abundantly illustrate important ideas in science and mathematics. The phenomena considered include rainbows, sparkling reflections on water, green flashes, earthlight on the moon, glories, daylight, crystals, and the squint moon. The concepts include refraction, wave interference, numerical experiments, asymptotics, Regge poles, polarization singularities, conical intersections, and visual illusions.

Speaker bio: After graduating from Exeter and St Andrews, Michael Berry entered Bristol University, where he has been for more than twice as long he has not. He is a physicist, focusing on the physics of the mathematics...of the physics. Applications include the geometry of singularities (caustics on large scales, vortices on fine scales) in optics and other waves, connections between classical and quantum physics, and the physical asymptotics of divergent series. He delights in finding the arcane in the mundane – abstract and subtle concepts in familiar or dramatic phenomena: Singularities of smooth gradient maps in rainbows and tsunamis; The Laplace operator in oriental magic mirrors; Elliptic integrals in the polarization pattern of the clear blue sky; Geometry of twists and turns in quantum indistinguishability; Matrix degeneracies in overhead-projector transparencies; Gauss sums in the light beyond a humble diffraction grating.

This lecture is sponsored by the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Physics Department's Morris Loeb Lectureship Fund and are free and open to the public.

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Harvard University
Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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