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2014-2015 PROGRAMS


"Quantum Universe"
Viatcheslav Mukhanov
October 23, 2014

Open Questions in String Cosmology and Inflation
October 24-25, 2014

Majorana Zero Modes and Beyond
October 29-31, 2014

Higher Spin Symmetries and Conformal Bootstrap
November 6-7, 2014

Numerical Approaches to Nonadiabatic Dynamics
November 21-22, 2014

Plasma Processes in Astrophysics and Fusion Energy: A workshop of the Max-Planck/Princeton Center for Plasma Physics
March 9-12, 2015

PCTS Annual Lecturer 2015
April 6-18, 2015
Gavin Crooks
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Accelerating Cosmic-Ray Comprehension
April 13-16, 2015

Intracellular Phase Transitions: RNA, Protein, Lipids and Beyond
April 20-22, 2015

Ice Nucleation
April 23-24, 2015

Topological and Strongly Correlated Phases in Cold Atoms
April 29-May 1, 2015

Director's Lecture 2015

PCTS Annual Lecturer 2015

and more to come




PROGRAMS 2014-2015
(Listed in chronological order, so scroll down to see all programs.)

Public Lecture
23 October 2014
8:00 PM
Room A-10 Jadwin Hall

"Quantum Universe"
Viatcheslav Mukhanov
Arnold Sommerfeld Center for Theoretical Physics
Ludwig -Maximilians Universitat Munchen, Germany

Why are atoms stable?  What caused galaxies, stars and planets to form?  I will explain why quantum physics is crucial for explaining both.  Finally, I will discuss the experimental evidence that assures us that everything in our universe originated from quantum fluctuations.

Public Lecture supported by
The William A. Kuncik '75 and Cheryl A. LaFleur '75 Endowment for Princeton Physics


Open Questions in String Cosmology and Inflation
24-25 October 2014

Workshop Organizers: Daniel Harlow, Herman Verlinde

The workshop will bring together string theorists and cosmologists to discuss central outstanding challenges in our understanding of Big Bang cosmology and the connection between CMB observations and fundamental theory. Potential future discoveries, such as the detection of B mode polarization of CMB anisotropies, would provide a direct experimental window into physics close to the Planck scale, and thereby put powerful constraints on attempts to realize inflation in string theory. Any model which can account for a detectable signal of primordial gravitational waves will not be able to parametrically isolate stringy effects from inflation, so it will have to rely on innovative dynamical mechanisms for theoretical control. We believe the time is right for a serious top-down look at this problem. Besides a small number of overview talks, the workshop will consist of organized discussion sessions on a number of key questions.


Majorana Zero Modes and Beyond
29-31 October 2014

Workshop Organizers: Yi Li, Titus Neupert, Phuan Ong, Shivaji Sondhi, Curt von Keyserlingk, Ali Yazdani

The Princeton Center for Theoretical Science (PCTS) will hold a special event on October 29-31, 2014. This workshop will bring together experimentalists and theorists to discuss the recent progress in the search for Majorana bound states regarding their realization, detection, and manipulation in solid-state systems. Furthermore, this workshop will highlight recent theoretical proposals for other novel topological states with non-Abelian excitations; in particular systems supporting parafermion bound states.

This workshop is co-sponsored by PCTS, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and MRSEC-PCCM, and will be hosted at the PCTS conference center at Princeton University.


The workshop is by invitation only. Please send any questions to

Higher Spin Symmetries and Conformal Bootstrap
20-22 April 2015

Workshop Organizer: Simone Giombi, Igor Klebanov, Silviu Pufu, Ran Yacoby

From a theoretical point of view, conformal field theories (CFTs) are crucial for our understanding of the renormalization group, because they represent endpoints of Lorentz-invariant renormalization group flows. This workshop will focus on the renewed interest in conformal field theories in more than two space-time dimensions, both abstractly through the conformal bootstrap program, as well as in relation with the higher-spin theories.


Numerical Approaches to Nonadiabatic Dynamics
21-22 November 2014

Program Organizers: Timothy Berkelbach, Garnet Chan, and David Limmer

The simulation of molecular dynamics occurring on the adiabatic electronic ground state is now a mature field, which is regularly used to investigate problems in physics, chemistry, biology, and materials science with atomistic detail.  However, many important problems - such as those in photochemistry or catalysis - violate the Born-Oppenheimer approximation and exhibit nuclear dynamics that proceed within a manifold of electronic states.  

To theoretically describe such processes requires the inclusion of electronically nonadiabatic effects.  A variety of approximate numerical approaches have been developed over the years to attack this problem with mixed success.  This workshop will bring together researchers pursuing state-of-the-art numerical techniques for a critical evaluation of the state of the field.  The program will be geared towards identifying the successes and failures of existing methodologies, so as to identify the most important unsolved problems and set the agenda for future research.



Plasma Processes in Astrophysics and Fusion Energy: A Workshop of the Max-Planck/Princeton Center for Plasma Physics
9-12 March 2015

Program Organizers: PPPL: A. Bhattacharjee, G. Hammett, G. Fu, H. Ji, S. Prager
Princeton Dept. of Astrophysical Sciences: J. Stone
Max-Planck Institute for Plasma Physics: S. Guenter, P. Helander, F. Jenko, P. Lauber
Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research: J. Buechner
Technical University of Berlin: W-C Mueller

The program will focus on plasma astrophysics and fusion plasma physics, with emphasis on links between the two. It will bring together multiple communities: laboratory plasma physicists, astrophysicists, solar system physicists, experimenters and (to a lesser extent) observers.  The unifying theme is that common plasma processes underlie a broad range of phenomena in both astrophysical and fusion plasmas. 



PCTS Annual Lecturer 2015

GAVIN CROOKS, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
6-18 April 2015

Events to be announced in 2015.


Accelerating Cosmic-Ray Comprehension
13-16 April 2015

Program Organizers: Damiano Caprioli, Anatoly Spitkovsky, Lorenzo Sironi, Benoit Cerutti, Eve Ostriker, James Stone

The Earth is relentlessly bombarded by ultra-relativistic particles produced in cosmic accelerators. These cosmic-ray sources also show prominent non-thermal emission, offering us a direct insight into the physical processes able to produce the most-energetic particles in the Universe. The aim of this program is to bring together a selected pool of scientists, with mixed observational and theoretical skills, to illustrate the wealth of new data provided by the present generation of experiments, and to discuss successes and issues of current theoretical models of particle acceleration and transport.
Moreover, special attention will be given to the still poorly-understood role of cosmic rays in galactic dynamics.

This program will be by invitation only.

Intracellular Phase Transitions: RNA, Protein, Lipids and Beyond
20-22 April 2015

Program Organizers: Cliff Brangwynne (Princeton CBE); Mikko Haataja (Princeton MAE); Ned Wingreen (Princeton MolBio)

Phase Transitions have emerged as a powerful and ubiquitous organizing principle within living cells. 2D phase transitions in lipid bilayers may serve as a mechanism for organizing membranes and associated signal transduction networks. More recently, 3D liquid-liquid phase transitions have been shown to occur within the cytoplasm and nucleoplasm of living cells, and appear to underlie the assembly of RNA/protein organelles. This workshop will bring together researchers at the cutting edge of theoretical and experimental work to understand the rules governing these phase transitions, and how they are coupled to a host of biological functions, from signal transduction to gene regulation. 


Ice Nucleation
23-24 April 2015

Program Organizers: Roberto Car, Pablo Debenedetti, Frank Stillinger

Despite the importance and ubiquity of the phenomenon, the precise microscopic mechanism of ice nucleation is not well understood, neither do we possess quantitative, predictive knowledge of homogeneous or heterogeneous ice nucleation rates. Because of the central role of ice formation in atmospheric processes, food preservation, and setting a key boundary for the possibility of life under extreme conditions, there exists a large community of experimental and computational scientists working on the problem of understanding, measuring and computing the mechanisms and rates of ice formation under a very broad range of conditions. A two-day workshop that brings together leading theoretical, computational and experimental scientists from among the unusually broad community of researchers interested in ice nucleation has the potential for shaping the research agenda for the next decade in this important area. Some of the topics and questions that would be addressed include:

  • *Mechanism of homogeneous ice nucleation under atmospherically-relevant conditions.
  • *Rate of homogeneous ice nucleation.
  • *Influence of different kinds of surfaces on mechanisms and rates of heterogeneous ice nucleation.
  • * Ice nucleation under extreme conditions (nucleation of different ice polymorphs).
  • *What determines the formation of amorphous vs crystalline atmospheric aerosols?
  • *Computational methods for calculating nucleation rates.
  • *Relationship between ice nucleation and phase behavior of deeply supercooled water.
  • * Thermodynamic, structural and kinetic relationships between crystalline and amorphous ices.
  • *Ice structure: classical and ab-initio predictions.
  • *Ability of different water models to predict the phase behavior of crystalline water over broad ranges of temperature and pressure.
  • *Anti-freeze proteins: structure and mechanism of action.


Topological and Strongly Correlated Phases in Cold Atoms
29 April - 1 May 2015

Program Organizers: Waseem Bakr, David Huse, Yi Li, Titus Neupert, Curt von Keyserlingk

Recently, ultra-cold atom systems have become a new frontier in quantum physics. The unique controllability in experiments provides a playground for studying exotic phenomena proposed in condensed matter, statistical physics, quantum information and high-energy physics.
Moreover, there is the exciting prospect of having novel topological and strongly interacting phenomena that are not easily accessible in usual solid-state systems, but realizable with cold atoms.

This program will consolidate the collaboration between cold atom experimentalists and theorists from all interested fields, to discuss new mechanisms, realizations, and detections of topological and strongly interacting phases in cold atom systems. Topics will include but will not limit to artificial gauge fields, topological band structures, fractional quantum Hall physics, Mott phases and ferromagnetic phases in cold atom systems. This program will start with 1 day of pedagogical tutorials and will be followed by 2 days of conference.








2007-8 FIRST PROGRAMS AT PCTS (click here)