March 3, 2014

APS March Meeting Webcast Press Conferences

The physics of toys, robots, quantum computing, earthquake lighting and more to be pesented at the APS March Meeting in Denver, March 3-7

The following press conferences will take place during the March Meeting of the American Physical Society, March 3 - March 7, in room 208 of the Denver Convention Center.


Monday, March 3

  • 9:30 a.m. MST, The Atom Files: Extending the Half-life of Science Stories
  • 10:30 a.m. MST, Bacterial Physics: Information, Evolution and Invasion
  • 2:00 p.m. MST, Novel, Temperature-Sensitive Magnetic Material
  • 3:00 p.m. MST, Improving Visa Policies for Scientists and Engineers
  • 5:00 p.m. MST, Modeling groups: Supreme Court, scientists and publications

Tuesday, March 4

  • 10:30 a.m. MST, Granular Physics: Earthquake Lights and the Roboclam
  • 11:30 a.m. MST, Eyes in the Sky: Satellite Imagery for Science and the Public Good
  • 1:00 p.m. MST, Epidemics, Evolution and Physics for Global Health
  • 2:00 p.m. MST, Latest Advances in Quantum Computing
  • 3:15 p.m. MST, Toying with trick roping and skipping balls

Wednesday, March 5

  • 3:00 p.m. MST, Bringing Nasa's Thermoelectric Generators Down To Earth, Enhancing Polymer Solar Cells With Graphene, And Generating Electricity With Hyperbolic Metamaterials

Thursday, March 6

  • 9:30 a.m. MST, Anti-icing Inspired by Ice Skating, Controlling Magnetism with Light, and Other Marketable Physics Ideas
  • 10:30 a.m. MST, Why Industry Needs Physicists (a press availability)
  • 11:30 a.m. MST, Invigorating the Economy with Physics


Monday, March 3, 9:30 a.m. MST

Historians and writers are working to keep scientists' stories alive for present and future generations, in four talks that take us from the Manhattan Project to Marie Curie. Retired physics professor Ruth Howes will discuss what happened to some of the women scientists of the Manhattan Project after the war, and the paths they took to either survive in physics or remake themselves in new professions. Cynthia Kelly of the Atomic Heritage Foundation will share her team's efforts to make previously undigitized historic recordings of Manhattan Project participants available online, as well as to get Congress to pass a bill that would turn three Manhattan Project sites into a national park. Writer and actor Susan Marie Frontczak will talk about her portrayals of Marie Curie and the role of "living history" — first-person portrayals of scientific figures – in keeping the spirit of science alive for the public. And historian Michele Gerber of Gerber Group Consulting will discuss the Hanford site's role in the Manhattan Project, particularly from the perspective of the women who worked there in support positions, for example as secretaries and food service workers.

Monday, March 3, 10:30 a.m. MST

Many physicists nowadays are bringing new perspectives to bear on bacteria, the ancient, ubiquitous form of single-celled life. Pankaj Mehta and colleagues at the Boston University Center for Synthetic Biology are seeking to design sophisticated biological circuits that can perform complicated "computing-like" behaviors -- a central goal of synthetic biology. Ken Dill and his colleagues at the Laufer Center at Stony Brook University in New York are exploring new ways of understanding evolution based on work that suggests nature may select for traits not linked to individual genes but to the overarching physical properties of a bacterial cell -- how squishy, stiff, salty or snugly packed they are, for instance. Howard Stone, Knut Drescher and Kevin Minyoung Kim of Princeton are exploring the mechanics of bacterial biofilms grown in the presence of fluid flow, where they form three-dimensional thread-like offshoots made of polymers and cells. These "streamers" can rapidly clog small channels and quickly foul sanitary surfaces.

Monday, March 3, 2:00 p.m. MST

Ivan Schuller (University of California San Diego) and colleagues have developed a new hybrid material that exhibits a large change in its response to magnetic fields with a small shift in temperature. The effect is unlike any known in any other material. Although it's too early to definitively how the material will be used, the researchers point out that the discovery of new effects such as this often lead to entirely unexpected technologies. Schuller and his colleagues speculate that the material could serve as the basis for a whole new class of data storage, sensors and energy storage devices.

Monday, March 3, 3:00 p.m. MST

Many international scientists and engineers love the innovative atmosphere of U.S. labs, but hate the headaches caused by the visa processes required to visit. Al Teich (George Washington University) will discuss the results of his just recently completed study of immigration hurdles faced by foreign scientists and students, and the simple, cost-neutral, and secure changes to visa regulations he believes can lower these hurdles. Kathie Bailey (National Academy of Sciences) will present statistics on the current visa system. And Matthew Gillen (Visa Office, Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State) will address recent policy changes and improvements in visa processing that help scientists and students visit the United States.

Monday, March 3, 5:00 p.m. MST

Social systems offer a plethora of information that scientists study to better understand the world in which we live. This year, Edward Lee (University of Wisconsin-Madison) offers a surprisingly simple model that can estimate the likelihood of Supreme Court voting outcomes. Xiaohan Zeng (Northwestern University) discusses the benefits of gender diversity within scientific teams. And Alexander Alemi (Cornell University) dreams of an arXiv that can generate more than scientific papers for users.

Tuesday, March 4, 10:30 a.m. MST

Researchers appear to be on the brink of an explanation for lightning strikes that sometimes precede earthquakes. The key could be understanding the surprisingly large charging that occurs when a granular material, like the soil around an earthquake fault, is put under stress. Troy Shinbrot and Theodore Sui of Rutgers University will describe a number of experiments that are helping them to pin down the as-yet-unexplained mechanisms that create charging in stressed granular materials. In addition to potentially using electrical signals to pinpoint earthquake epicenters, a better understanding of the phenomenon could help to monitor the production of ceramics, pharmaceuticals, and other products that require uniform, high quality powder blends.

Kerstin Nordstrom (University of Maryland) is less concerned with the physics of granular materials themselves than she is in exploiting the ways creatures like the Atlantic razor clam move around in them. Nordstrom and colleagues are experimenting with a robotic version of the clam that burrows quickly and efficiently into silty underwater soils. They're attempting to determine if the RoboClam could serve as a lightweight anchor for small marine vehicles. It's burrowing capabilities would allow RoboClam to plunge into underwater soil to hold vessels fast and, just as easily, dig its way back out when it's time to pull up anchor.

Tuesday, March 4, 11:30 a.m. MST

As Google Earth users know, satellite images hold a treasure trove of useful information. Lawrence Friedl (NASA Applied Sciences) will discuss how NASA's environmental satellites can improve our quality of life and strengthen the economy. And John Amos (SkyTruth) will describe how his organization applies satellite remote sensing to illuminate environmental issues and incidents, such as the BP oil spill. One of SkyTruth's new projects uses crowdsourcing to help create comprehensive maps of drilling and fracking across the United States.

Tuesday, March 4, 1:00 p.m. MST

Solutions to mitigating the widespread outbreaks of bacteria and viruses that continue to plague humankind will come from many fields of research, including physics. Several speakers at this year's meeting will describe work addressing some of the most pressing problems of global health. New work by Oskar Hallatschek (University of California Berkeley) and his colleagues may provide insight into what controls the dynamics of evolutionary spreading processes. Within a simple abstract model of epidemic spread, they have found a way to calculate the pace of spreading in the presence of rare long-range jumps. Connie Chang (Montana State University) will describe a new technology called the Evopopbot Chip and its potential to accelerate viral evolution in the laboratory by allowing researchers to quickly propagate millions of parallel passages of a virus over several generations in a short timescale - automating work that would have taken years to perform by hand into just hours. Barrett Deris (MIT) and colleagues believe that one solution to better forecasting of epidemics is to understand how different mutations affect bacterial growth, and they have developed a simple quantitative model that predicts steady-state growth rates of bacteria in the presence of certain antibiotics.

Tuesday, March 4 2:00 p.m. MST

A world where quantum computers reign supreme is still far off, but scientists are making significant strides in the right direction. Just this year, a group of physicists at Yale developed a measurement system that can observe, track and document quantum information, called qubits. This is crucial to the success of a quantum computer. Tracy Northup (University of Innsbruck) will discuss how future quantum computer may use ions and photons to transport quantum information over long distances. Daniel Sank (University of California Santa Barbara) will explain the theory and design behind a quantum qubit readout device. Viatcheslav Dobrovitski (Ames Laboratory, Iowa State University) offers a detection scheme that relies on nitrogen-vacancy centers in diamonds. And Joydip Gosh (University of Calgary) looks at how qubit leakage affects quantum error detection.

Tuesday, March 4 3:15 p.m. MST

"Marry-Go-Round", "Wedding-Ring" and "Spoke-Jumping" are just some of the tricks that entertainers perform with a lasso when practicing what professionals call trick roping. Scientist Pierre-Thomas Brun (EPFL, LFMI) has modeled the art of the simplest rope trick called the Flat Loop and compared his simulations with that of high-speed videos of a professional trick roper and experiments with a "robo-cowboy". His results offer a guide on how to spin a lasso like the professionals.

From spinning lassos to skipping balls: scientist Tadd Truscott (Brigham Young University) offers a look at why cannonballs can bounce on water and how to optimize the number of bounces and distance traveled. Truscott will discuss his detailed observations with a less explosive subject, the Waboba ball, and how its elasticity helps it skip on water as easily as the smoothest skipping stone.

Wednesday, March 5, 3:00 p.m. MST

NASA has long used compact, high efficiency thermoelectric generators to power satellites. Researchers involved in a new ARPA-E program are now working to adapt NASA's technology to down-to-earth applications. Emily Warren (Colorado School of Mines) and colleagues are hoping to produce terrestrial generators built around the NASA thermoelectric devices. Unlike photovoltaic solar cells, which convert light to electricity, thermoelectric generators produce electricity directly from heat. The thermoelectric devices are potentially more efficient than photovoltaics, as well as being robust, scalable and environmentally friendly.

Yan Jin (University of Cincinnati) and colleagues are working to produce light, flexible solar cells made of polymers. Currently, polymer solar cells fail to match the efficiency of conventional solar cells, but Jin's group is closing the performance gap by adding graphene to the polymer mix. They still have a significant way to go before their polymer/graphene solar cells are competitive in overall efficiency, but they may soon be ideal for use in flexible materials like clothing or for satellites and other applications that can benefit from ultra-light components.

Zubin Jacob (University of Alberta) will present the latest developments in the emerging field of hyperbolic metamaterials. In addition to potentially leading to a host of miniaturized optical components, the material can enhance vacuum and thermal fluctuations, which could lead to an entirely new class of devices that convert heat to electricity.

Thursday, March 6, 9:30 a.m. MST

When you need breakthroughs for your commercial products, sometimes it pays to ask a physicist. Three talks feature pioneering work by physicists that could someday lead to marketable products. Jianjun Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences will discuss a new low-cost and eco-friendly anti-ice coating inspired by ice skating. The new coating creates a self-lubricating layer of water between the protected surface and the ice, which can be blown off by a strong breeze. Guo-Jie J. Gao of Osaka University will discuss his team's efforts to move us toward faster, cooler 3-D printers. His group reports what may be the best way to discharge the grains and powders used for printing without requiring a dramatic redesign the today's printing systems. And Mark Meisel of the University of Florida will discuss his team's work to control magnetism with light. In their set-up, shining light on a photo-active metamaterial "sandwich" allows them to induce a magnetic state that lasts weeks instead of milliseconds. The work – part of a new field that Meisel has christened "magnetolomics" – could someday lead to a new type of magnetic read-write switch or photomagnetic detector.

Thursday, March 6, 10:30 A.M. MST

Physicists fuel innovation in many types of companies, from the electronics industry to the oil and gas industry. In this press briefing, a panel of physicists from a range of industries will be available to answer questions about the unique set of skills physicists bring to corporate work, and how collaboration across institutional boundaries (i.e. with government and universities) can drive innovation.

Thursday, March 6, 11:30 a.m. MST

From lasers to liquid crystals, scientific research has long planted the seeds for technological innovation. A panel of four speakers will discuss how science has helped boost economic growth. Peter Littlewood (Argonne National Laboratory) will discuss how physics expands both knowledge and GDP. David Lee (European Physics Society) will discuss the effects of physics R&D on the European economy. Thomas Baer (Stanford University) will show how lasers made the leap from the lab to our everyday lives. And Venkat Selvamanickam (University of Houston) will discuss how low temperature superconducting wires have enabled multibillion dollar industries, and high temperature superconductors hold the promise of impacting an even larger market. Pushpa Bhat (Fermilab) will introduce the speakers, provide a short introduction, and moderate the discussion.

APS Media Contacts

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(301) 209-3238

Tawanda W. Johnson
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Media Relations, Journals

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About APS

The American Physical Society is a non-profit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 53,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, MD (Headquarters), Ridge, NY, and Washington, D.C.