(Front, left to right): Richard Abram, George Rochester's daughter Dorothy and son Tony, Professor Wilson Poon, Molly Corner, David Wagstaff and Derek Corner. (Back, left to right): Sir Arnold Wolfendale FRS, Martin Ward, Ian Smail and David Sills
Professor Wilson Poon is an experimentalist in soft matter and biological physics, specialising in colloids and bacteria. Professor Poon also studies the relationship between science and religion. He is a member of the EU Marie Curie Initial Training Network Comploids (Physics of Complex Colloids).
He is renowned for employing a research philosophy in which well-characterised suspensions are used to throw light on phenomena that are ubiquitous throughout condensed matter physics, such as crystallisation and other phase transitions. Colloid science, as it's known, is important for applications ranging from drugs to dairy products an was pioneered by Albert Einstein. Less well known is that it can also illuminate basic physics questions, because in certain crucial respects, colloids behave as “big atoms.”
For a number of years, the Professor has concentrated on studying how glasses and gels flow, in particular the structure and dynamics of their arrested states. Understanding such states is a grand challenge facing 21st century physics; at the same time, they occur widely in a very large range of industrial processes and products. To that end he set up the Edinburgh Complex Fluids Partnership (ECFP) to coordinate industrial consultancy. Their clients now span many sectors, from food and confectionaries through personal care to specialty and agri-chemicals.
Funded initially by an EPSRC Senior Research Fellowship, and now continuing under an European Research Council Advanced Grant and an EPSRC Programme Grant, Professor Poon leads a team which has developed a versatile tool for imaging suspensions of both solid particles and liquid drops (emulsions) while their rheological properties are being measured. The group studies both active particles in the form of bacteria as well as synthetic colloidal swimmers with the long-term aim of discovering and understanding new modes of collective behaviour in active particle systems, both on their own, and in the company of passive particles.
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Professor John Ellis FRS (centre) with George Rochester's son Tony and son-in-law David (next right) and senior members of the Physics Department (Georg Weiglein, Nigel Glover, Richard Abram and Sir Arnold Wolfendale FRS)
Within particle physics and cosmology Gauguin’s questions may be interpreted as: What is the status of the Standard Model?
What physics may lie beyond the Standard Model? What is the ‘Theory of Everything’? What were the early stages of the Big Bang? What is the material content of the Universe today? What is the future of the Universe?
In the lecture Professor Ellis highlighted how new facilities and ideas in particle physics and cosmology can shed light on the questions raised by Gaugin.
Professor Sir John Pendry FRS (seated, centre) with Rochester family members (Tony and Sylvia Rochester, David and Dorothy Sills) and senior members of the Physics Department (Richard Abram, Brian Tanner and Sir Arnold Wolfendale FRS)
Refractive materials gives us some limited control of light: we can fashion lenses, and construct waveguides, but complete control of light is beyond simple refracting materials. Ideally we might wish to channel and direct light as we please, just as we might divert the flow of a fluid.
Manipulation of Maxwell's equation shows that we can achieve just that provided we have access to some highly unusual material properties. Metamaterials open the door to this new design paradigm for optics and provide the properties required to give complete control of light.
One potential application would be to steer light around a hidden region, returning it to its original path on the far side. Not only would observers be unaware of the contents of the hidden region, they would not even be aware that something was hidden. The object would have no shadow.