Hot topics for cold winter days: Science on Saturday begins Jan. 12

Dec. 19, 2018

The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s (PPPL) 2019 Ronald E. Hatcher Science on Saturday Lecture Series gets started Jan. 12 with a multitude of lectures on hot science topics that will warm the hearts and stimulate the minds of science fans of all ages. 

The 10-week program at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory gets started with a talk that combines the unlikely topics of heavy metal and quantum physics. Philip Moriarty, professor of physics at the University of Nottingham School of Physics and Astronomy in England, will discuss “When the Uncertainty Principle Goes to 11….or How to Explain Quantum Physics with Heavy Metal.”  Moriarty is the author of a book by the same name. A full schedule is available here.

A highlight will be the second lecture by PPPL’s own Steven Cowley, PPPL’s director, who was recently knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his contributions to the development of nuclear fusion. Another talk on plasma physics will be on Feb. 16 when PPPL physicist Fatima Ebrahimi will also give a talk on “magnetic explosions: From space plasmas to fusion energy.”

Other topics will range from a talk on New Jersey’s changing climate by David Robinson, New Jersey’s climatologist to a discussion on “Roots – The Hidden Half of the Plant World,” by Ying Reinfelder, of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers University.

“I am proud that PPPL is once again offering this program, which is so cherished by the community,” said Andrew Zwicker, head of Communications and Public Outreach, who hosts the program. “We have a wonderful line-up of speakers this year and I hope young and old alike will join us.” 

The program is named for the beloved engineer Ronald Hatcher who hosted the lctures and who died in 2014. It has a huge fan base that ranges from high school students to senior citizens who have been coming to the lecture since it first began more than 30 years ago. The program is funded by the DOE’s Office of Fusion Energy Sciences. 

“I’m excited to see the people who come every year,” said Deedee Ortiz, the Science Education program manager who organizes the program. “They’re so dedicated. It’s like a family reunion.” 

The free talks begin at 9:30 a.m. at PPPL’s Lyman Spitzer Building, 100 Stellarator Road, Princeton, and end around 11:30 a.m. No registration required. Visitors should plan to come at least an hour early to get a good seat and enjoy a coffee and bagel. Visitors can tweet their questions for the speaker @PPPLsScieEd or #scionsat.

A full schedule is available here. If you are not able to make it to the lecture, you can watch it live here. (Please note there is no lecture Feb. 23 due to the U.S. Department of Energy’s New Jersey Science Bowl®.) 

No pre-registration is required. However, adults must show a government-issued ID such as a license or passport at the security booth. Free parking is available on site. More information about visiting the Laboratory and directions can be found here

If a lecture is canceled due to inclement weather, a message will be left on the Science on Saturday Hotline at 609-243-2121. 

PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit