A singularity or divergence in a physical theory usually indicates the need for new physics in order to resolve the singularity. Remarkably, the singularities that occur in almost all physical theories (classical and quantum mechanics, electromagnetism,…) can only take on certain generic forms which are described by catastrophe theory. These catastrophes have been extensively studied in optics where they are known as caustics and occur all around us as natural focusing, e.g. as the bright lines on the bottom of swimming pools, as rainbows, or rogue waves at sea. They are the places where the geometric theory fails and wave theory (which introduces the concept of phase and interference) must be used to get a finite answer. I will give an introduction to this subject and finish up with my own research on the next logical generation of these objects, namely quantum catastrophes. These are places where classical wave theory breaks down and quantum field theory must be used for a proper description. I will illustrate the basic ideas by applying them to the dynamics of an atomic Bose-Einstein condensate following a quench.
Coffee and Refreshments will be available in SSC 1511.