Aspen Science Center



very winter, elite teams of the most accomplished physicists in the world head to the Winter Conferences of the Aspen Center for Physics to wrestle with the most cutting-edge questions in their fields.  This always means something special for students, teachers, and science enthusiasts!  Why? Because the world’s pre-eminent physicists share their insights with the public at the Physics Cafes and Winter Lectures.

The ASC has created a family-friendly, fun, and informal pre-lecture gathering, where everything is accessible to the bright middle schooler on up — from the food, to the physicists, to the informal conversations. The Physics Cafes are designed to bring the thrill of exploration, the joy of discovery, and the excitement of sharing big ideas (and cookies) to every student, adult, and family in the Roaring Fork Valley!

These events are on Wednesdays at 4:30PM at the Wheeler Opera House, before the Aspen Center for Physics DeWolf Lecture. Café goers have a chance to hear young physicists share their expertise and talk about how they got to where they are in their careers.  Participants then have a chance to ask informal questions and chat with these eminent physicists not only about their Workshop topic, but any topic from string theory to their favorite happy hour spot in Aspen. Not only is it a wonderful experience in itself, it is the perfect warm up for those who want to acquire the rich context that will enhance their appreciation of the lectures that follow.

Our Physics Cafes run from January through March. These events are free and no tickets are required.

Schedule for 2019. All events 4:30 to 5:20 pm on Wednesdays at the Wheeler Opera House, unless otherwise noted

  • January 9, 2019
    The 2018 Nobel Lecture in Physics: Optical Tweezers and their Biological Applications
    Speaker: Arthur Ashkin, Bell Laboratories, emeritus
    The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded “for groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics” with one half to Arthur Ashkin “for the optical tweezers and their application to biological systems,” the other half jointly to Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland. Ashkin will deliver his Nobel Lecture at the Wheeler Opera House.Dr. Ashkin’s “tools made of light” have revolutionized laser physics. Extremely small objects and incredibly fast processes now appear in a new light. Not only physics, but also chemistry, biology and medicine have gained precision instruments for use in basic research and practical applications. Ashkin’s invention was fundamental to the establishment of the modern field of Single Molecule Biophysics.
  • January 16, 2019
    Topic: Machine Learning
    Lecture: “Rise of the Machines:Deep Learning from Backgammon to Skynet”    Paul Ginsparg, Cornell University 
    Over the past seven years, there have been significant advances in the application of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning to a variety of familiar tasks. From image and speech recognition, self-driving cars, and machine translation to beating the Go champion, it’s been difficult to stay abreast of all the breathless reports of superhuman machine performance. There has also been a recent surge in applications of machine learning ideas to research problems in the hard sciences and medicine.  I will endeavor to provide an outsider’s overview of the ideas underlying these advances and their evolution over the past few decades, and project some prospects and pitfalls for the near future.
  • February 6, 2019
    Topic: Strongly Correlated Quantum Systems
    “Quantum Dances: Life, Love and Jealousy in the Quantum World
    Ulrich Schollwoeck [Ool-rish Shoal-vek], University of Munich, Germany For the last 50 years, most of modern technology has been based on quantum effects. We have only seen the tip of the iceberg but “quantum technology 2.0” is taking off right now. It is based on exploiting, for the first time, the phenomenon of entanglement which makes the quantum world so different from the world we experience every day.

    Now, we encounter “strongly correlated” quantum materials and systems every day. What are they and why are they important for us? We will discuss why understanding them is such an exciting challenge and how we rise to it by large-scale quantum simulations using digital computers and analog quantum devices. We discover a rich and intricate dynamics of particles which incessantly form and break fleeting associations with each other. And we are beginning to understand how all this may be deeply related to fundamental questions in cosmology.

  • February 13, 2019
    Topic: Gravitational Waves
    Speaker: TBD
  • March 6, 2019
    Topic: Into the Starlight: The End of the Cosmic Dark Ages
    Speaker: TBD
  • March 13, 2019
    Topic: Many-Body Quantum Chaos
    Speaker: TBD
  • March 20, 2019
    Topic: Higher Symmetries
    Speaker: TBD
  • March 27, 2019
    TopicIn Pursuit of New Particles and Paradigms
    Speaker: TBD