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Thursday, June 03, 2010
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
T-DO Conference Room (TA-3, Bldg 123, Room 121)

Quantum Lunch

Quantum Catastrophies

Duncan O'Dell
McMaster University

Caustics are singularities of the ray theory of light: places where the intensity diverges and the geometric theory fails. A well-known example is the rainbow; another is provided by the bright lines on the bottom of a swimming pool. Caustics are more generally known as “catastrophes” and can occur in quantum mechanics too, typically in semiclassical and mean-field theories. I will present some illustrative examples of catastrophes that have come up in my research in ultra-cold atoms, including atomic diffraction, atomic Josephson junctions and cavity QED. I hope to convince you that catastrophe theory is a useful tool for analyzing quantum systems in certain interesting limits.

Host: Diego Dalvit