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This Week at Physics

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Events on Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

Chaos & Complex Systems Seminar
Projecting future floodplains and the impacts to future risks and vulnerabilities in the United States
Time: 12:05 pm
Place: 4274 Chamberlin (refreshments will be served)
Speaker: Shane Hubbard, UW Space Science and Engineering Center
Abstract: The Space Science and Engineering Center at UW Madison is working with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to investigate the impacts of a changing climate on the floodplains in coastal Georgia. Two communities, Hinesville and Tybee Island, are dealing with changes to their floodplains and the current impacts to their citizens. In this work we investigate the potential changes to their floodplains and the impacts associated with increased risks and damages. This work revealed that even minor changes to water volumes within the floodplain can result in damages many times greater than the expected changes in water levels. The next phase of this research is beginning and involves working directly with the community to educate and then respond to these possible future scenarios.
Host: Clint Sprott
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Astronomy Colloquium
Special Tuesday Talk
Understanding the Relationship between Dense Gas and Star Formation in Galaxy Nuclei
Time: 3:30 pm
Place: 4421 Sterling Hall, Coffee and cookies 3:30 PM, Talk begins 3:45 PM
Speaker: Betsy Mills, Brandeis University
Abstract: Star formation in environments from local molecular clouds to distant galaxies is characterized by a simple, linear relationship between the amount of gas compared to the amount of recently formed stars. However, star formation in the center of our Galaxy does not follow these universal scaling relations, suggesting that the star formation process has a more complex dependence on environment. In the Galactic center, scaling relations predict there should be a larger amount of star formation given the amount of dense gas that is present. My recent work has put new constraints on both these quantities, indicating that neither overestimates of gas density nor underestimates of star formation can completely account for this discrepancy. Instead, it is most likely that (1) in this environment there is a higher gas density threshold required for the onset of star formation and (2) the center of our galaxy is currently in a quiescent or low state in between cycles of starburst activity. This poses a challenge for using the Galactic center to better characterize deviations from star formation ‘laws’ in extreme environments, as the Galactic center is far from experiencing a global starburst. I describe two ways my recent work is addressing this challenge: firstly, by characterizing properties of dense gas and star formation in nearby starbursting nuclei at high spatial resolutions now available with ALMA. Secondly, I describe my recent studies of the Sgr B2 "mini-starburst”: an individual cloud in the galactic center that may be more characteristic of the global mode of star formation observed in nuclear starbursts. Finally, I end with a cautionary note on remaining challenges for correctly interpreting observations of dense gas tracers in more distant extreme and unresolved systems.
Host: Professor Eric Wilcots
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