Department of Physics & Astronomy
Welcome to the Department of Physics & Astronomy
Physics and astronomy explores the behavior and structure of matter and energy at all levels to help describe our world and the universe. Physics has helped us contemplate the origins of the universe and develop new products and technologies that meet human needs. The fundamental laws of physics find application in almost every branch of science, engineering and technology.
The Department has active research programs in Astronomy/Astrophysics, Condensed Matter Physics, High-energy Physics, Nuclear Physics, and Biophysics. Our high-energy physics, particle astrophysics and nuclear physics groups are involved in experiments which recreate the conditions of the early universe and help explain how it has evolved. In providing instruction in classical and modern physics, we cover such areas as mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, introductory modern physics, and quantum mechanics.
Black Holes in the Universe (and Hollywood)
Professor Roger Blandford, Stanford University
Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity implies that black holes could exist, astrophysicists demonstrated that they should exist, and astronomers, observing with many different telescopes, have demonstrated that they are common in the universe. They are found with masses ranging from a few times to more than ten billion times that of the sun. They are observed from the lowest radio frequencies to the highest energy gamma rays and most recently through gravitational radiation. We are getting close to the point where they can be imaged directly so that we should be able to test our ideas of how they work. The strange and wonderful behavior of black holes will be described and compared with some alternate realities created in the movies.