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UCSD Physicist Eric Michelsen: "Selected Topics in Quantum Mechanics"

The San Diego Philosophy Forum is pleased to announce that Eric Michelsen, UCSD Professor of Physics, will speak on "Selected Topics in Quantum Mechanics."

This event, open to the public and free of charge, will take place 6:30-8:00 PM, Tuesday, May 27 at the North University Public Library: 8820 Judicial Dr. (near the 805 highway's Nobel Exit); Lib. ph. (858) 581-9637.

This is a food-friendly space, with light refreshments available. More information, if any, will be posted, as available, to SDPhil.org.

Quantum Mechanics, as popularized by books like Capra's "The Tao of Physics," and Zukav's"The Dancing Wu Li Masters," seems to have become a catch-all for the unexplained at the intersection of science and the personal.  Some topics, wave-particle duality, for instance, may have been over-simplified for popular consumption, and in other cases, like entanglement, misunderstanding may be inadvertently put forth as science.  My hope is that Dr. Michelsen will be able to clear up, at least some of the confusion.

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Eric Michelsen studies and teaches fundamental physics at UCSD.  He is very interested in education, especially science education.  He got his PhD in Physics at UCSD in June 2010, based on an experiment studying Einstein's theory of gravity by tracing out the orbit of the moon with a laser, often to 1 mm accuracy (the thickness of a dime). 

In a former life, Eric was an electrical engineer in semiconductors and communication systems.  He has helped start three successful companies, including two venture-funded firms, exiting in an acquisition and an IPO.  At home, he has a wife, and two children who ask him lots of questions that he can't answer.  His latest book, Quirky Quantum Concepts: Physical, Conceptual, Geometric, and Pictorial Physics that Didn't Fit in Your Textbook... (available at Amazon), was published by Springer in February, 2014.

In Quirky, Dr. Michelsen explains the more important and more difficult concepts in theoretical quantum mechanics, especially those which are consistently neglected or confusing in many common expositions. The emphasis is on physical understanding, which is necessary for the development of new, cutting edge science.

In his book, Dr. Michelsen explains the basis for many standard quantum methods, which are too often presented without sufficient motivation or interpretation. His work is not a simplification or popularization, but real science for real scientists. Physics depends on math, and Quirky does not shy away from it, but neither does it overwhelm the intrepid reader. The discussions provide the experimental and theoretical reasoning behind some of the world's great discoveries, so the reader may see how they arose from a rational process which Quirky Quantum Concepts makes accessible to the reader.

The book is, therefore, a great supplement to almost any existing quantum mechanics text. Students and scientists will appreciate the combination of conversational style, which promotes understanding, coupled with thorough scientific accuracy.

His commitment to simplifying the complex for his students is also evident in the series of papers on his faculty web site -- http://physics.ucsd.edu/~emichels/, whose titles include: Quirky Quantum Concepts, Funky Mathematical Physics Concepts, Funky Electromagnetic Concepts, Funky Statistical Mechanical Concepts, Funky Mechanics Concepts; and Funky Relativity Concepts

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Other Selected Publications

  - "APOLLO: A New Push in Lunar Laser Ranging," T. W. Murphy, Jr., E. L. Michelsen, A. E. Orin, E. G. Adelberger, C. D. Hoyle, H. E. Swanson, C. W. Stubbs, & J. B. Battat, Proceedings of Quantum to Cosmos, to appear in International Journal of Modern Physics D, (2008)

  - "Absolute Calibration of LLR Signal: Reflector Health Status," T. W. Murphy, Jr. , E. G. Adelberger, J. B. Battat, C. D. Hoyle, E. L. Michelsen, C. W. Stubbs, & H. E. Swanson, 15th International Laser Ranging Workshop, Canberra, Australia, (2006)

  - "APOLLO Springs to Life: One-millimeter Lunar Laser Ranging," T. W. Murphy, Jr., E. G. Adelberger, J. B. Battat, C. D. Hoyle, E. L. Michelsen, C. W. Stubbs, & H. E. Swanson, 15th International Laser Ranging Workshop, Canberra, Australia, (2006)

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  • James C.

    One of the best presentations I've seen, and definitely put to rest my concerns about "decoherence".

    May 28, 2014

  • Arthur M.

    Thought he should have gotten to the topic of free will sooner rather than dwelling on the science of physics.

    May 27, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great presentation by a thoroughly knowledgable leader in the field.

    May 27, 2014

  • Phil C

    This was an excellent presentation. The only limitation was that it was a bit over my head. That, however, was not Mr. Michelsen's fault. I believe he delivered the content in as simple as way as possible without boiling it down to a degree that it would lose its meaning. Given that, I think the only think that could improve the presentation is to expand the time and allow for questions during the lecture itself so the more difficult parts might be explained as would allow for a better comprehension of the following parts.

    May 27, 2014

  • Kyle W.

    Hello, there. I am very excited to attend this next meeting. I was wondering if there was any pre-reading that you would like everyone to do? I hope to hear from you soon.
    -Kyle

    May 12, 2014

    • Andrew

      Kyle, I invited Dr. Michelsen based on my familiarity with works like "The Tao of Physics" and "The Dancing Wu Li Masters." I hope he addresses questions raised, perhaps inauthentically, by "new age" books like these. He also has papers on the site listed above, but they can be rough sledding for even math-friendly philosophers.

      May 12, 2014

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