Nobel Prize Lecture

February 03, 2015

You are invited to a free lecture explaining the impact of the Nobel Prizes in Sciences by three distinguished SFU faculty members.

 What is blue LED light? by Simon Watkins

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for a discovery of great practical application rather than a fundamental new discovery. For decades engineers, materials scientists, and physicists had realized the great potential of semiconductor light emitting diodes (LEDs) and lasers in lighting, display, and information technologies.  The achievement of blue LEDs and lasers remained stubbornly elusive for over 30 years, despite intensive research efforts. The story of this prize is a testament to the idea that perseverance can pay huge rewards, and that relative newcomers can provide the fresh insight to achieve a breakthrough.  LED lighting has the potential to drastically reduce worldwide consumption of electricity for lighting but has also enabled a whole range of new applications such as large screen displays, high storage density laser disk readers, ultraviolet LEDs for water purification and much more.  The nitrogen based semiconductors developed for this work also turn out to have extremely useful properties for control of high voltage and high power electricity. This talk will review the story of the invention of the high efficiency blue LED and the lessons it offers concerning the advancement of science and technology.

What is super-resolution microscopy? by John Bechhoefer

Science-fiction write Arthur C. Clarke once observed, “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”  This year’s Chemistry Prize goes to three scientists who invented new types of optical microscopes that can see details far smaller than was previously thought possible.  In the 19th century, Ernst Abbe discovered that the wavelength of light sets the smallest size that may be seen (“resolved”) in a microscope.  These resolution limits were thought to be inviolable, but some 21st-century cleverness has found ways around them, with spectacular implications for understanding how biological cells work. 

How do we know where we are? by Dan Marigold

We live in a cluttered world, making navigation a complex task. Knowing our current location relative to environmental features, finding a desired location, and remembering a route are fundamental to survival. I will discuss how the brain creates an internal map of the environment to make this possible, work that formed the basis for this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Specifically, I will shed light on the discovery and characteristics of neurons known as place and grid cells and why understanding how they contribute is important.


Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Images Theatre
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, BC

6 - 8 pm

Free admission and refreshments.



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