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Visual Illusions, Nanosurgery and Light Bending Subjects of Public Lectures at Pomona College

Eric Mazur, the Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University, will give a series of lectures on visual illusions, nanosurgery and light bending, at Pomona College, April 14-15, 2008, through the auspices of the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar program. All of the lectures are open to the public.

Mazur focuses his work in the area of optical physics and has made important contributions to spectroscopy, light scattering, and the interaction of ultra-short laser pulses with materials. He also devotes time to finding ways to improve science education. This research has led to the publication of Peer Instruction, a manual that offers methods for teaching large lecture classes interactively. A recipient of the National Science Foundation Director’s Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars, he is also a fellow of the American Physical Society and was chosen the Society’s Centennial Lecturer.

How the Mind Tricks Us: Visualizations and Visual Illusions
Monday, April 14, 8:00 pm
Pomona College Seaver North Auditorium, 609 College Ave., Claremont
Neurobiology and cognitive psychology have made great progress in understanding how the mind processes information – in particular, visual information. The knowledge we can gain from these fields has important implications for the presentation of visual information and student learning.

Subcellular Surgery and Nanosurgery
Tues., April 15, 11:00 am
Pomona College Rose Hills Theater in the Smith Campus Center, 170 E. Sixth St., Claremont
We use femtosecond laser pulses to manipulate sub-cellular structures inside live and fixed cells. Using only a few nanojoules, we are able to selectively disrupt individual mitochondria in live bovine capillary epithelial cells, and cleave single actin fibers in the cell cytoskeleton network of fixed human fibroblast cells. We have also micromanipulated the neural network of C. Elegans, a small nematode. Our laser scalpel can snip individual axons without causing any damage to surrounding tissue, allowing us to study the function of individual neurons with a precision that was not achievable before.

Wrapping Light Around a Hair
Tuesday, April 15, 4:30 pm
Pomona College Seaver North Auditorium, 609 College Ave., Claremont
Can light be guided by a fiber whose diameter is much smaller than the wavelength of the light? Can we mold the flow of light on the micrometer scale so it wraps, say, around a hair? Until recently, the answer to these questions was “no.” We developed a technique for drawing long, free-standing silica wires with diameters down to 50 nm that have a surface smoothness at the atomic level and a high uniformity of diameter. Light can be launched into these silica nanowires by optical evanescent coupling and the wires allow low-loss single-mode operation. They can be bent sharply, making it possible to control the propagation of light around micrometer-sized corners. The nanowires have applications in microphotonic devices for optical processing and environmental sensing.

There is no charge to attend any of the lectures. For more information, contact Prof. Alfred Kwok at (909) 621-8729 or