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Dr. Werner Dappen from USC’s Department of Physics and Astronomy will be talking about Quantum Mechanics in the Deep Interior of the Sun.

The search for the origin of the energy (and lifetime) of the Sun has been a challenge for nearly two hundred years. Important intermediate steps were taken by some of the most famous physicists (among others, Kelvin, Einstein, Gamow, Bethe, von Weizsäcker and Salpeter). Although broadly speaking, the problem has been fully solved (the source of energy being nuclear fusion of hydrogen), there still remain unresolved subtleties. These details matter thanks to the great diagnostic tools of the solar interior, which are helioseismology and neutrino detection. I will concentrate on a particular open issue, the reaction enhancement of nuclear fusion due to Coulomb screening in a plasma. Recent results have shown that a proper understanding of this enhancement involves the basic tenets of quantum mechanics and quantum measurement. In passing, and as a prerequisite for a proper statement of the problem, I will review the history of our understanding of the energy of the Sun and the stars.

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