67th Compton Lecture Series

Seeing and Believing: Detection, Measurement, and Inference in Experimental Physics

Kathryn Schaffer - Saturdays, 11a.m., April 5-June 14 (except May 24). Kersten Physics Teaching Center 5720 S. Ellis Avenue, Room 106

Physics today pushes ahead with new results and ideas that can sound fantastical and bizarre. How can we possibly stand in a lecture hall in Chicago and talk sensibly about the beginning of the universe, or phenomena at impossibly small scales? Anyone, faced with the notions that arise at the frontiers of physics, has the right to ask: "How can you know that?", and "Why should I believe it"? While physics involves some speculation, the major results in the field are always based on concrete observations and down-to-earth reasoning. Most experimental results in physics can be boiled down to detection of a radiation signal, measurement of properties of that signal, and inference using statistics and cross-checks. Therefore, an understanding of the physics of detection and simple statistics can go a long way towards demystifying even the strangest claims in the field. The 67th Compton Lecture Series will tackle the buzzing subatomic world and the physics of radiation detection, using case studies from neutrino physics and cosmology to explore measurement and uncertainty on some of the frontiers of the field.



Lecture Notes and Slides:

Lecture 1: “Beta decay and the neutrino, a story of two detectors” lecture notes slides

Lecture 2: “What are you radiating?” lecture notes slides

Lecture 3: “What do you have to detect to study the very small (particles) and the very large (the universe)?” lecture notes slides

Lecture 4: “Seeing light: detectors for electromagnetic radiation” lecture notes slides

Lecture 5:  “Seeing particles:  detectors for high energy particles” lecture notes slides

 Lecture 6: “Uncertainty” lecture notes slides

Lecture 7: “Background on Case Study 1: the Solar Neutrino Problem” lecture notes slides

The actual delivery of the two lectures below was not in this order, but I am posting them in the originally intended order:

Lecture 8: “Seeing and Believing with SNO: Solving the Solar Neutrino Problem” lecture notes slides

Lecture 9: “Background on Case Study 2: The Problem of Dark Energy” lecture notes

Lecture 10: “Seeing and Believing with the South Pole Telescope: Towards insights into Dark Energy” lecture notes slides