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Relatively Certain

Hear the latest news about everything from quantum computers to astrophysics, all straight from scientists at the University of Maryland. Relatively Certain is produced by the Joint Quantum Institute and hosted by a rotating cast, featuring Chris Cesare, Emily Edwards and Dina Genkina. Episodes from Quantum Conversations, a prior series focused entirely on quantum physics, will remain available under the new name.

In the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, the luckiest among us have simply been relegated to working from home. And many people have had to find creative ways to turn their home into an office, a classroom, or—in the case of experimental physicists—a makeshift lab.

An artists's rendering of an atom with galaxies embedded inside

There’s a big unsolved mystery in physics: The cosmic balance sheet for matter in our universe just doesn’t add up. Galaxies all over space move as though they are much heavier than they appear.

Topology—the mathematical study of shapes that describes how a donut differs from a donut hole—has turned out to be remarkably relevant to understanding our physical world.

Software just might be the unsung hero of physics labs.

In many situations, chaos makes it nearly impossible to predict what will happen next. Nowhere is this more apparent than in weather forecasts, which are notorious for their unreliability.

Chaos. Time travel. Quantum entanglement. Each may play a role in figuring out whether black holes are the universe’s ultimate information scramblers.

What's it like living and working in Antarctica? Upon returning from a five-week trip to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, UMD graduate student Liz Friedman sat down with Chris and Emily to chat about her experience.

Deep within the ice covering the South Pole, thousands of sensitive cameras strain their digital eyes in search of a faint blue glow—light that betrays the presence of high-energy neutrinos.

Trey Porto, a NIST physicist and Fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute, spends his days using atoms and lasers to study quantum physics. But even outside

A little more than a hundred years ago, Albert Einstein worked out a consequence of his new theory of gravity: Much like waves traveling through water, ripples can undulate through space and time, distorting the fabric of the universe itself. 

More than 300 feet underground, looping underneath both France and Switzerland on the outskirts of Geneva, a 16-mile-long ring called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) smashes protons together at nearly the speed of light. Sifting through the wreckage, scientists have made some profound discoveries about the fundamental nature of our universe.

But what if all that chaos underground is shrouding subtle hints of new physics? David Curtin, a postdoctoral researcher at the Maryland Center for Fundamental Physics here at UMD, has an idea for a detector that could be built at the surface—far away from the noise and shrapnel of the main LHC experiments. The project, which he and his collaborators call MATHUSLA, may resolve some of the mysteries that are lingering behind our best theories.

This episode of Relatively Certain was produced by Chris Cesare, Emily Edwards, Sean Kelley and Kate Delossantos. It features music by Dave Depper, Podington Bear, Broke for Free, Chris Zabriskie and the LHCsound project. Relatively Certain is a production of the Joint Quantum Institute, a research partnership between the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and you can find it on iTunes, Google Play or Soundcloud.