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Tastes Of Nuclear Physics 2020: An International Feast of Physics And Fun!

Author: Nicklaus Kruger

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, researchers are conducting work that can change the way we understand the universe. That’s why Tastes of Nuclear Physics X is bringing together nuclear physicists from around the world to share, educate and inspire.

(Published - 18 November 2020)

In 1945, as World War Two was coming to an end, amidst all the death and devastation, soviet scientist Arkadii Migdal published a paper that would transform nuclear physics. Now, 75 years later, amidst a new worldwide challenge, nuclear physics students and experts from around the world are gathering to share knowledge, socialise and sample what the field has to offer - in Tastes of Nuclear Physics X.

“Science never stops - it’s at the core of human advancement,” said University of the Western Cape (UWC) PhD student Cebo Ngwetsheni, who will be presenting at Tastes about enhancement of photon strength functions at low energies, and their effects. “It’s what will carry us out of this pandemic and into the future. We may not always know how - but it’s beautiful to see the amazing applications that come from our research. So I’m really looking forward to hearing from professionals in the field.”

For years, Tastes of Nuclear Physics has served as one of South Africa’s most successful conferences on fundamental nuclear physics and applications, providing a chance for exchanging ideas and providing world-class exposure to African students coming from historically disadvantaged backgrounds. And now, Tastes X #TNP2020 is taking place virtually from 30 November to 4 December 2020.- allowing anyone, anywhere to share in the physics, and the fun.

“We’re providing a strong Taste of what nuclear physics has to offe,” said UWC’s Professor Nico Orce, who has championed Tastes of Nuclear Physics since 2011. “We’re bringing the best timely research, hope to students and young researchers worldwide - and I've never seen such a great constellation of speakers in any given conference as we’ve managed to gather for Tastes X. The will from everyone to be part of it, either speaking, chairing a session or organising the Tastes to perfection is astonishing. 

World-class researchers from Cape Town to California - including local scientists and students from UWC, UniZulu, Nelson Mandela, Johannesburg, iThemba LABS and Stellenbosch University - will be delivering interactive lectures on explosive astrophysics, machine learning in nuclear physics and experiments at the world’s largest scientific laboratory. And for those who won’t be able to make the sessions, not to worry: The TASTES Lectures, relevant papers and documentation, software, videos of the lectures and photos will be posted online as well.

One of those stars is Prof John Wood, a world expert in the experimental study of nuclear structure physics. Prof Wood has been at the Georgia Institute of Technology, US since 1972 - and at each and every Tastes of Nuclear Physics since the first.

“This is the single most sustained voluntary commitment in my professional career. I only had to meet the students the first time and I resolved to maintain my commitment as long as I can ‘get myself to SA’. Tastes of Nuclear Physics is a meeting between a small number of leaders in the field and a large number of students in an environment where we can get to know each other, and we share what - and how - we think.”

He may not be able to experience that as directly this time, thanks to the ongoing pandemic - but he’s certainly going to make the most of it this time around.

“In these times, by all means possible, wherever we can raise a person’s belief in themselves, the complex and pressing problems will more likely be solved,” he noted. “Nuclear physics is a most complex branch of science, and I have no doubt in the ability of South African students to tackle it. And Tastes will help them sample what the future holds for them.”

Prof Orce has seen firsthand the impact nuclear physics can have on connecting students to the wider world. He has led students and conducted research all over the world - and ran UWC’s African-leading experiment at CERN, using some of the most powerful scientific equipment in existence to examine sub-atomic matter and reflect on what happens when stars explode. UWC’s very own Kenzo Abrahams will present the physics results arising from this experiment during Tastes X. 

“Nuclear physics is a field that’s crucial to fulfilling South Africa’s economic ambitions, and to discovering more about the basic building blocks of our world,” said Prof Orce. “We’re broadening our students’ horizons, giving them the necessary technical and theoretical skills to achieve excellence in whatever they do in life - while at the same time helping us all see deeper into the cosmos.”

Tastes of Nuclear Physics X #TNP2020 takes place virtually from 30 November to 4 December 2020. For a full list of world class speakers, the programme, a Book of Abstracts and much more content about the upcoming event, visit the Tastes of Nuclear Physics website at http://nuclear.uwc.ac.za/index.php/tastes-of-nuclear-physics/

More on the spirit of Tastes here: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7k3c99Dbu98&t=6s 

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