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The dark core of dark matter

The dark core of dark matter

Dark Matter Evidence from Nasa

The link above is an interview I did for CTV's National Affairs on a new result that could change our understanding of dark matter.

Previous evidence points to dark matter not being able to interact with other dark (or regular) matter except weakly through gravity. Researchers at UBC took a look at a "cosmic train wreck" that occurred when two galatic superclusters smashed into one another. These galatic superclusters, each containing hundreds or even thousands of individual galaxies, are mostly made up of free Hydrogen gas. During the collision the gas interacts and gets "stuck" in the middle while the stars, planets, and dark matter should keep on moving through.

In this case it appears that the dark matter gets "stuck" in the middle as well, something that was not seen in previous observations of other cosmic train wrecks. There are a number of possible explanations, all of which will teach us something new about nature of dark matter:

  • Some dark matter may actually be able to interact with other dark matter via some new force.
  • There may have already been a large chunk of dark matter, without much regular matter, sitting in the middle where the collision took place. In this case, we need to understand how so much dark matter can exists without much regular matter.
  • Dark matter has a filament-like nature, similar to how roots on a tree grow. In this case, we may be looking at one of the filaments end on. Imagine looking at a pencil end on. All you would see is the pencil point and not have any idea how long the pencil actually is. A similar thing could be happening with the dark matter–what we see as a small dense core in the center could actually be a an incredibly long filament of dark matter.

This result provides another puzzle piece in the mystery of what dark matter is, how galaxies form, and what our place in the universe is.

A big thanks to Adrienne Erickcek and Keith Vanderlinde for walking me through this exciting work.

TEDxUW behind the scenes

The IQC has made a short behind the scenes video about my TEDxUW talk. The video contains a hint about some of the things I am planning in my upcoming TEDxWaterloo talk.

Lindy Hoppers: Science needs YOU!

This coming March I am going to be explaining some the intricacies of Quantum Mechanics using Lindy Hop. To pull this off, I need your help.

The goal is to get as many scenes as possible to film themselves performing the routine. The footage will then be spliced together and be incorporated into a larger performance.

Speaking at TEDxWaterloo

Speaking at TEDxWaterloo

TEDxWaterloo Logo

I have been invited to speak at TEDxWaterloo this coming March. Last year event was inspirational. I am excited to take part in this conference, and have something special planned.

It is good to see that one of my favourite musicians, Roberta Hunt, will also be performing at this event. Applications to attend this event are now open as well.

Saved by the Bell's Inequalities

This summer I was asked to give a lecture at the Quantum Cryptography School for Young Students. Some of the brightest high school students from around the world gathered at the Institute for Quantum Computing (where I work) to learn about what we do. I spoke about Bell's Inequalities, one of the fundamental ideas that is the foundation for much of what we do in my field.

The lecture is aimed at a more advanced enthusiasts. I was impressed by how well the students were able to keep up. Bell's inequalities is not easy to explain and the subtleties are even lost on many physicists. I have been searching for a way to convey the critical results of Bell's inequalities to a ten year old, but have so far failed. If anyone knows of a clever explanation, let me know. (I don't think the standard explanations using the colour of ones socks or baking cakes are clear for a general audience.)

TEDxUW 2011 Photos on Flickr

TEDxUW 2011 Photos on Flickr

Krister Shalm presenting at TEDxUW 2011

The photos are online from TEDxUW 2011. A big thanks to all the photographers at the event.

Watch TEDxUW live online tomorrow

Tomorrow I'll be speaking at TEDxUW.  If you cannot make it in person, you can watch the event live online.  My talk is at 11:45 AM ET. Preparing for this talk has been an interesting personal journey. I am looking forward to the event. The TEDxUW team has done an outstanding job.

I am speaking at TEDxUW

I am speaking at TEDxUW


I am excited to announce that I will be speaking at the inaugural TEDxUW event hosted at the University of Waterloo. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, and is a series of global conferences that feature excellent and inspiring talks. I have been a big fan of TED ever since I heard about it three years ago. TEDxUW has a great organizational team that is putting together an awesome event. November 12th cannot get her soon enough.

Here are a couple of my favourite TED talks:

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Quantum Physics & Harry Potter Talk

For those of you who missed it in person, the video for the Quantum Physics & Harry Potter is now live. Dan and I had a lot of fun putting this on and are hoping to repeat the show sometime in the winter. A big thanks to Peter Kovacs for shooting and editing the video.

Dan Trommater teleporting a 20 dollar bill during the Quantum Physics and Harry Potter Show

Photos from opening night of the Quantum Physics and Harry Potter Show

A big thanks to everyone who turned out for the opening of the Quantum Physics and Harry Potter show last night. The show was a lot of fun. It is the first time I have seen people eating popcorn in a physics lecture! Dan and I are looking forward to the repeat performance tonight. I would also like to thank all of the IQC volunteers who helped make the show extra special, as well as Katharin, Colin, Martin, Jasmine, and Kim for all of the behind the scenes work. Here are some pictures that the IQC photographer Peter Kovacs took of the event.

Quantum Physics and Harry Potter talk invisible snitch

Quantum Physics and Harry Potter talk audience

Dan Trommater teleporting a 20 dollar bill during the Quantum Physics and Harry Potter Show

Demonstration of Spontaneous Parametric Downconversion during the Quantum Physics and Harry Potter Show

Quantum Physics and Harry Potter talk laser refraction

Krister talking during the Quantum Physics and Harry Potter Show

Martin and the levitating supercounducting train during the Quantum Physics and Harry Potter Show

Last Minute Prep Before the Quantum Physics and Harry Potter Show

Last Minute Prep Before the Quantum Physics and Harry Potter Show

Quantum Physics and Harry Potter at the Princess Twin Cinema in Waterloo

It is only one day before the Quantum Physics and Harry Potter show opens! Yesterday we were at the theatre doing a tech run to make sure everything worked. I am really excited about the show! The demos are going to work really well.

As luck would have it, there is a magic shop right beneath the cinema. They have been very helpful and supportive of the show. This Thursday and Friday they will be staying open late in case anyone wants to find out more about magic after the show.

Kind of Magic: Kitchener Waterloo Magic Shop

The Power of the Printed Press

The Power of the Printed Press

Quantum Potter: Front page story of the Waterloo Record

Last week two different articles ran in local newspapers promoting the upcoming Quantum Physics & Harry Potter show. The first was a story by Marshall Ward for the Waterloo Chronicle. The second was a front page cover story by Greg Mercer of the Waterloo Record. Within an hour of the front page story in the record appearing, both nights of the show sold out! People say that traditional media is dying. This may be true, but they still have a tremendous amount of influence and reach.

Here is my cat trying to read the story. She makes a special guest appearance in the show to help me explain Schrodinger's cat.

Quantum Potter and Schrodinger's cat

Good Ideas Get Around

The Oxford English Dictionary defines an expert as > A person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.

Experts are individuals who, through specialized training, are able to perform specific tasks that are out of the reach of others. I know what it takes to become an expert having spent most of my twenties in university earning a PhD in physics. I am an expert in a narrow field of quantum optics, and work daily with other experts in the same topic.

When experts communicate with one another they tend to use jargon. This jargon can speed the transfer of ideas, but leave those not initiated lost. When I attend talks given by experts in other fields in physics, I spend much of the time trying to decipher what the special terms they bandy about mean. The use of jargon is at best laziness; at worse it is a purposefully erected barrier designed to protect the exclusive knowledge of experts. If you cannot understand what an expert is talking about it is nearly impossible to challenge them.

Communicating effectively is hard. An idea at the cutting edge of human knowledge and experience can be complex, technical, and obscure. Unpacking an idea—peeling back the layers of assumptions and jargon—unleashes its true power. This process forces one to wrestle in new ways with an idea; to polish it until it becomes a glistening pearl of clarity that others will find precious.

I am not advocating the dumbing down of ideas. Everyday we are bombarded by sound bites and simplistic, inadequate, characterizations. One needs to look no further than the last political campaign to see this dumbing down at work. Instead of rational, earnest, discussions about the issues of the day, politicians resort to slogans and caricatures of their opponents. For an even baser example of this, just read the comments section of the typical Engadget post about an Apple product that devolves into a petulant flamewar between fanbois.

What I am suggesting is that as experts we work hard to eliminate all the barriers to our communication. When speaking with the general public try to convey the big picture of your idea. How does it fit in with their lives. Why is it important? What is interesting about it. I have found that asking these questions about my own research has dramatically improved my ability to communicate with other experts inside and outside my field (and funding agencies).

Nobody likes to be made to feel stupid; get rid of the isolating jargon and grapple instead with the essence of your ideas. Ideas want to have sex. Jargon and unneeded complexity are a venereal disease that keeps ideas from finding a mate. Good ideas get around.

Quantum Physics & Harry Potter

Quantum Physics & Harry Potter

Update: Both shows are now sold out! Two free evenings of magic and science!

Magician Dan Trommater and I are teaming up once againfor a pair of fun, fascinating evenings exploring how the magic of Harry Potter mirrors the real magic of the quantum world. Levitation, teleportation and more—discover how these phenomena exist not only in Harry Potter's world, but in the quantum realm that underlies our world too.

Here is a trailer for the talk:

This is a non-profit educational event aimed at anyone who loves the magic of science. Dan and I held a similar event last year in Toronto that was a huge success. This year's show will be even better!

Poster for Quantum Physics and Harry Potter Show

SPACE IS LIMITED Reserve your free ticket here.

Thursday July 14, 6:30pm - 8:30pm Friday July 15, 6:30pm - 8:30pm Princess Twin Cinema, Waterloo, ON

For more information, visit or check out the Facebook event page.

Sponsored by the Institute for Quantum Computing, University of Waterloo.

Cafe Scientifique Recap

Cafe Scientifique Recap

I just posted a recap of the Ontario Science Centre Cafe Scientifique event I spoke at. Included is some footage from the talk I gave for those who may have missed it.