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ICYMI: A summer of stellar happenings at Perimeter

A round-up of the latest news from Perimeter, a look at the recent work of researchers and alumni, gems from the archive, and fun physics for everyone.

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A new black hole image from our own galaxy, some quantum magic, a star of science communication, conversations with some of your favourite physicists, new grads, new students, and a DIY summer science camp.

In case you missed it, here’s what’s been happening inside the Perimeter.

Deep dive Inside the Perimeter

In May, the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration – a consortium of researchers from Perimeter Institute and a dozen partner organizations – released the first image of the supermassive black hole at the centre of our own galaxy. See coverage of the new image of Sagittarius A* in The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, The Wall Street Journal, and Quanta Magazine.

Is the universe a hologram? Celestial holography researchers like Perimeter’s Ana-Maria Raclariu are exploring a new take on holography as a way of approaching quantum gravity.

“Magic” has a technical meaning in quantum theory, and Faculty member Timothy Hsieh and collaborators have found a huge source of it.

A new result from the CHIME/FRB Collaboration adds to a growing body of evidence that strongly suggests many fast radio bursts (FRBs) originate from neutron stars. The team reported the detection of an FRB that emits pulses in periodic succession, the first type of its kind to be seen, in a paper published in Nature.

Woman with short brown hair wearing a purple sweater standing in front of a chalkboard of equations
Katie Mack

Katie Mack arrives at Perimeter

Perimeter has welcomed Katie Mack to Waterloo Region as she takes up her position as the inaugural Hawking Chair in Cosmology and Science Communication.

Mack is a cosmologist working on dark matter and early universe physics, who arrived this spring from North Carolina State University, where she was an Assistant Professor in Physics. She is a skilful science communicator, with a New York Times Notable Book, more than 400,000 Twitter followers, and a new TikTok account that already has almost 25,000 followers. Find out more about why Mack loves thinking about the end of the universe in this profile in the Waterloo Region Record.

Earlier this month, Mack put her science communicator hat on as she described just what we’re seeing in the first James Webb Space Telescope images, and their significance to researchers. Her quick explainer video, released right after U.S. President Joe Biden unveiled the image of a galaxy cluster, has already garnered almost 500,000 views.

Mack said in an interview with the News & Observer that she felt “it would be useful to point out the cool things about [the image], why I was excited, and why I thought other people might be as well.”

Mack also talked about what we can learn from these new images in interviews with Democracy Now, Slate, and the BBC. Her first piece for BBC Science Focus, also about NASA’s new telescope, was published in May.

Honours and Awards

Perimeter Associate Faculty member Christine Muschik has earned an Early Researcher Award, funded by the Province of Ontario. Muschik, an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo, is working on developing theoretical concepts to build new types of quantum simulators.

Katie Mack, the Hawking Chair in Cosmology and Science Communication, has been named a 2022-24 CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar. The Azrieli Global Scholars program enables early-career scientists to deepen their research, expand their networks, and strengthen their leadership and communication skills.

Postdoctoral quantum gravity researcher Alessia Platania has been nominated as a Nordita Distinguished Junior Visitor for 2022/23. The program, at the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics, offers junior researchers extended research visits of up to six months.

Group of students holding their diplomas at a graduation ceremony
2022 PSI graduating class

Training the next generation of brilliant minds

Graduates of Perimeter Scholars International celebrated an environment where they had the opportunity to work with prominent researchers, and a holiday dinner featured dishes from 12 countries. “It’s really changed the way I see and interact with academia” says Sofia Gonzalez Garcia, as the Class of 2022 graduates.

As one class leaves, Perimeter prepares to welcome the Class of 2023 – including one who was featured in his hometown media for being accepted to the prestigious program. Check out this profile of  PSI student Cole Coughlin; and this one of 2022 ISSYP participant Kiera Dowell.

Perimeter PhD student Xiu-Zhe (Roger) Luo is working with his advisor, Associate Faculty member Roger Melko, on algorithms designed to speed up quantum computers for practical problems, in the moonshot of our century.

PI podcast, Conversations at the Perimeter, launches its first season

If you’re fascinated by the mysteries of our universe, and the brilliant scientists working to unravel them, be sure to listen to Conversations at the Perimeter. Each episode of the new podcast features a conversation with a guest scientist about their research, motivations, and challenges. Season 1 has just wrapped up, with 11 episodes including conversations with Carlo Rovelli, Estelle Inack, Lucien Hardy, and others. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, or watch it on Perimeter’s Youtube channel.

Did you know that about 4,000 Canadian teachers and 6,000 international teachers use Perimeter’s educational resources in 130 countries? Welcome to the modern physics classroom. Connecting students to modern science such as the discovery of the Higgs boson, makes those concepts relevant and meaningful to them. “It shows them that what they are doing in Grade 12 has a purpose,” says teacher Saara Naudts.

Portrait of a woman with short dark hair wearing a white suit
Aida Ahmadzadegan

News and views

In 2021, Perimeter postdoctoral fellow Aida Ahmadzadegan launched quantum technology company ForeQast. Last month, Ahmadzadegan and ForeQast celebrated their graduation from the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL)’s quantum stream mentorship program.

Perimeter remembers James Bardeen, a respected scientist who made pioneering contributions to both black hole physics and cosmology, who passed away in June at age 83. He was also an admired collaborator and friend to many in the Perimeter community, making regular visits as a Distinguished Visiting Research Chair from 2011 to 2020.

Perimeter Faculty member Davide Gaiotto has been named one of 13 principal investigators studying the inner workings of the atomic nucleus as part of the new Simons Collaboration on Confinement and QCD Strings.

Alumni of PI

What is quantum thermodynamics? Nicole Yunger Halpern, an alum from the Perimeter Scholars International Class of 2013 and staff physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Washington D.C., has created an adventure guide to the field with her new book, Steampunk: The Physics of Yesterday’s Tomorrow.

Yunger Halpern also wrote a piece for Inside the Perimeter about her former roommate, Perimeter alum Chiamaka Okoli, the inspiration behind one of the characters in her book. Okoli was also a PSI graduate in 2013, and earned her PhD at Perimeter in 2018. A rising star in cosmology, she died in 2019.

Former Perimeter postdoctoral researcher William Witczak-Krempa was featured on the Universite de Montreal website for his work researching highly entangled states of quantum matter. Witczak-Krempa holds the Canada Research Chair in Quantum Phase Transitions.

Man standing at a microphone speaking to a theatre of people

Science, face to face

For the first time in over two years, Perimeter held an on-site conference. The five-day workshop, “Gravitational Waves Beyond the Boxes II,” was hybrid, offered both in person and online. But the 40 researchers and students who participated in person once again filled a physical space that was designed for collaboration.

Since then, Perimeter has hosted five more in-person or hybrid conferences. Read more about it in Making Waves, and check out Perimeter’s upcoming conferences.

Fun stuff and gems from the archive

It’s a midsummer night’s dream: to look up at the sky and have some idea of what is actually going on in the universe! Check out these Perimeter resources for kids of all ages, and create your own DIY Summer Science Camp.

Everyone is enamoured with the new James Webb Space Telescope images – and they are stunning. But let’s not forget good old Hubble. Its first image was released 32 years ago, and it’s been dazzling earthbound humans ever since. Give Hubble some love with these 14 mind-bogglingly awesome facts about the deep field images.

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