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NMSU physics department hosts lecture on gold, scientific discoveries

As part of a continuing physics lecture series for science enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds, Heinz Nakotte, associate professor of physics at New Mexico State University will speak at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 18, in the Corbett Center auditorium.



New Mexico State University associate professor of physics Heinz Nakotte will deliver a lecture on his research at Los Alamos National Laboratories on single-crystal gold pieces involving neutron scattering techniques. (Photo by Dixon Wolf at Los Alamos National Laboratory)

His lecture, "The Neutron Files: Gold Crystals and Other Hidden Treasures" will discuss how scientists can determine, by looking at a material with neutrons, its composition and structure. Gold nuggets are the material Nakotte focuses his research on.

"Neutrons are used as a tool to explore the properties of the material deep inside of an object. A fortunate twist of nature is that thermal neutrons are a perfect match for the study of the atomic configuration and the dynamics in typical solids and liquids," Nakotte said, whose work involves neutron scattering techniques.

The Los Alamos Neutron Science Center (LANSCE) produces intense neutron beams that can be used in a variety of neutron scattering studies. Recently Nakotte used the LANSCE facilities to characterize some of the world's largest naturally grown gold crystals, the biggest nugget of which has been valued at close to $1 million. During the lecture he will discuss these and other interesting neutron experiments he has contributed to.

Each speaker in the physics colloquium series gears the presentation of their subject toward "non-scientists" and brings the language to a level of understanding for the general public including high school and junior high school students.

"We invite anyone with an interest in science to join us. So far we've had really great turn outs at these lectures," said William Gibbs, physics department head. There is no cost for admission. For more information on the series, contact (575) 646-6711.