Meeting Information

Pictures, Models, Approximations, and Reality: Phase transitions and our understanding of the physical world

November 14, 2012
American Center for Physics
College Park, MD

Date: Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Speaker: Michael E. Fisher, Institute for Physical Science and Technology, University of Maryland

Topic: Pictures, Models, Approximations, and Reality: Phase transitions and our understanding of the physical world

Time and Location: 1:00PM, with Q&A to follow; in a 1st floor conference room at the American Center for Physics, 1 Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD-- off River Rd., between Kenilworth Ave. and Paint Branch Parkway.

Abstract: Ways in which theoretical physicists look at the real world and try to understand it will be explored. Through the medium of a domino game on a large checkerboard, the rapier-like specific heat of superfluid helium, and the visual effects seen when a liquid and it vapor merge to form a supercritical fluid, the talk will address the question: “What is the role of the theorist in modern science?” The power of analogy based on physical pictures and simple models will be illustrated in the context of ideas concerning phase transitions and critical phenomena in fluids and magnets, in alloys and plasmas. The significance of the concepts of shape and singularity in the search for universality will be explained; the role of symmetry and dimensionality in our insights will be touched upon.

Brief Biography: Since 1987, Distinguished University Professor and Regent's Professor of the University of Maryland System.

Previously: Cornell University: Professor of Chemistry and Mathematics, 1966-1973; Horace White Professor of Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics, 1973-1989; Chairman, Department of Chemistry 1975-1978.

Prof. Fisher has won an exceptional number of prizes and other distinctions; we list just a few: The Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics, 1970; The New York Academy of Sciences Award in Physical and Mathematical Sciences, 1978; The Guthrie Medal and Prize of the Institute of Physics (U.K.), 1980; The Wolf Prize in Physics, 1980; The Boltzmann Medal, of the IUPAP Commission on thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics, 1983; The Hildebrand Award of the American Chemical Society, 1995; The Hirschfelder Prize in Theoretical Chemistry, from the University of Wisconsin, 1995; The Royal Medal of the Royal Society of London, 2005; The 2009 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Basic Sciences, 2010. He was appointed Life Member of the Board of Trustees of the Weizmann Institute of Science, in 2010.

Prof. Fisher has given many special lectures at distinguished venues all over the world. Beyond the US, these include Japan, Canada, Israel, England; Ireland, Norway, The Netherlands, and India.

As recent news, Prof. Fisher was awarded the Honorary Doctoral Degree by the École Normale, Supérieure de Lyon on October 11, 2012.