The Fermilab colloquium introduces staff, users, students and members of the public to a wide range of scientific and science-related topics presented by notable speakers from across the country and around the world. Colloquia are open to the public.

An integral part of Fermilab’s academic culture, “orange” colloquium talks are aimed at a broad scientific and technical audience, while “green” talks are of general interest to all laboratory staff, users and members of the public.

Colloquia are open to everyone. Unless otherwise advertised, the talks are held at 4 pm on Wednesday afternoons in the One West auditorium in Wilson Hall. Members of the public wishing to attend must show a photo ID at the laboratory entrance and tell the guard on duty that they are attending the colloquium.

Fermilab upcoming colloquia

Lectures begin at 4:00 p.m. in 1 West

  Appropriate for physicists     Appropriate for all lab staff and members of the public
March 28, 2018, 4:00 pm
Penny Quinn, Exelon Corp
For twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, up to 10% of the electricity generated in the United States came from uranium recycled from Soviet nuclear weapons. The “Megatons to Megawatts” program was a unique partnership in which bomb-grade uranium from dismantled Russian nuclear warheads was downblended and used to produce fuel for American nuclear power plants. As a liaison between the United States and the former Soviet Union, my presentation will describe the “Front End” of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle. It will include a look at the various components of nuclear fuel supply and how the material makes its way to the nuclear plants - and how historical events have impacted the process and the markets over time.
April 4, 2018, 4:00 pm
Phil Burrows, Oxford University
The Compact Linear Collider (CLIC) is a proposed design for a high-energy electron-positron collider for potentially reaching multi-TeV centre-of-mass energies in lepton collisions. The first energy stage would be a Higgs-boson and top-quark factory at 380 GeV. I will review the CLIC project and present the current status of the energy-staged design. I will cover the physics motivation as well as the accelerator and detector designs. I will summarize planning and next steps for the project in the context of the update of the European Strategy for Particle Physics.
April 11, 2018, 4:00 pm
Christof Wetterich
Observation of the redshift of distant galaxies tells us that the ratio between intergalactic distances and the size of atoms increases. An expanding Universe or shrinking atoms both reflect the same reality and are equivalent. In a new view on cosmology with steadily increasing masses of elementary particles the universe can exist forever in the past and future - the big bang singularity turns out to be an artifact of an inappropriate choice of fields. Quantum gravity computations indicate that the universe could start in the infinite past near an ultraviolet fixed point with massless particles, and approach in the infinite future an infrared fixed point with spontaneously broken scale symmetry and massive particles. The cosmological constant problem is solved. The resulting model describes early inflationary cosmology and late dynamical dark energy with the same scalar field. It can be tested by observation of huge lumps in the cosmic neutrino background.
April 18, 2018, 4:00 pm
Eugenie Scott, National Center for Science Education, Inc.
Both evolution and climate change are “controversial issues” in education, but are not controversial in the world of science. Nonetheless, every year in the United States, state legislatures contemplate bills restricting the teaching of evolution, climate change and other allegedly “controversial subjects”. Known generically as “Academic Freedom Acts”, these proposed bills direct teachers to “critically analyze” (i.e., criticize) or to present the “full range of scientific views” (i.e., include creation science and climate change skepticism) of these scientific fields. In his analysis of data collected over decades by the National Center for Science Education, Matzke traced the origin of these “Academic Freedom Acts” in his “Evolution of Antievolution Policies” in Science, showing that these bills are the current manifestations of the creationism and evolution controversy that has dogged American science education for over 100 years. As documented by surveys carried out by the NCSE and others, such legislation has a chilling effect on the willingness of teachers to present these topics in the classroom, and both evolution and climate change are under-taught or avoided at the pre-college level.
April 25, 2018, 4:00 pm
John J. Quinn, PhD, Argonne
Green remediation of contaminated soil and groundwater involves strategies that maximize sustainability, reduce energy usage and emissions, reduce water usage, promote carbon neutrality, promote industrial materials reuse and recycling, and protect and preserve land resources. At the 317 and 319 Areas at Argonne National Laboratory, past industrial practices resulted in contamination of soil and groundwater by tritium and solvents. As a remedial action, Argonne chose a phytoremediation system, relying on plants to remediate the subsurface. This talk will cover the rationale, design, implementation, monitoring, and lessons learned from this green remediation system.
May 2, 2018, 4:00 pm
Xiaohui Fan, University of Arizona
Quasars are active nuclei of galaxies powered by accretion onto their central supermassive black holes. They have been discovered at a redshift up to 7.5, only 700 million years after the big bang, and provide ideal probes to the formation and evolution of the earliest supermassive black holes in the universe, and to how the universe was transformed through cosmic reionization at the end of cosmic dark ages. New generations of wide area sky surveys, including SDSS and DES, enable systematic searches of these earliest quasars. Recent discoveries of quasars with central black hole masses up to ten billion solar masses in the early universe indicate extremely rapid growth of black holes at early epoch, challenging standard model of black hole formation through collapse of young massive stars, and suggest initial seeding of supermassive black holes through direct collapse of pristine gas with >1000 solar masses.
May 9, 2018, 4:00 pm
Robert Wald, University of Chicago
During the past 45 years---due primarily to the work of Stephen Hawking---a remarkable relationship has emerged between the theory of black holes in general relativity and the laws of thermodynamics. Due to quantum particle creation, black holes emit thermal radiation at a finite temperature. This thermal radiation causes a black hole to lose mass in such a way that a perfectly isolated black hole will completely "evaporate" in a finite time. As a result of the entanglement of quantum fields inside and outside of a black hole, when the black hole evaporates, the final quantum state should be mixed even if the initial quantum state was pure, i.e., information should be lost. This colloquium will review black hole thermodynamics and the status of the information loss issue.
May 23, 2018, 4:00 pm
Tamira Brennan, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
Approximately one-thousand years ago, the fertile Mississippi River floodplain adjacent to modern day St. Louis was home to the largest pre-Columbian civilization in Eastern North America: Cahokia. This vibrant and multi-ethnic city was composed of a vast network of archaeological sites that centered on the three large mound precincts of St. Louis, East St. Louis, and the Cahokia site itself. Although modern developments have erased most vestiges of prehistoric life from the surface, evidence of expansive Native American settlements continue to be discovered beneath the surface. Analysis and interpretation of the most spectacular of these recent finds have changed our understanding of Cahokia, a wildly successful city that rose and fell in less than 500 years’ time.
May 30, 2018, 4:00 pm
Jason Bono, Fermilab
Music is nearly universal in human culture and yet it remains mysterious. In order to help answer some of music’s fundamental questions, we will briefly turn to archeology and early history before examining some of music’s salient features from a physical and mathematical perspective. Principles rooted in physics and pure mathematics will provide a link to intercultural qualities of musical tone and melody to the deep role that symmetry plays in human perception, thus shedding light on the questions that we set out to answer. To enhance clarity and familiarity, various concepts will be illustrated with animations and sound bites.
June 13, 2018, 4:00 pm
John Campbell, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
June 27, 2018, 4:00 pm
Edward Feser
The idea of a law of nature is central to scientific explanation. Laws themselves are often said to be explicable in terms of more fundamental laws. But what about the most fundamental laws? Why is the world governed by those particular laws rather than by other laws or no laws at all? And what exactly is a law of nature in the first place? Are these questions that science itself can answer, or is there a role for philosophy in answering them?
Aug. 8, 2018, 4:00 pm
Robert Nemiroff, Michigan Technological University & NASA
Astrophotography is one of the most popular areas of digital imaging, and NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD: is one of the most prominent venues for public astrophotographic display. The popularity of astrophotography spurs competition that results in innovation in imaging component areas including science, education, hardware, and software. NASA and the world's foremost astronomical observatories typically lead in science and hardware innovation, while astrophotographers and data analysts usually lead in education and software innovation. Examples of all types of astrophotography, as highlighted on APOD, will be presented and discussed, including videos and some of the best, most popular, and most innovative astronomy images yet taken.