March 5, 2007 Press Conferences

2007 March APS Meeting Press Conferences 

The following press events will take place at the March Meeting of the American Physical Society (APS) at the Denver Convention Center in room 208.

Monday, March 5, 9 am


The mystery of pattern formation in certain geological formations has been solved, just in the past year, using mathematical and modeling techniques employed in condensed matter physics. Speakers at session B7 explain why this is. Troy Shinbrot (Rutgers, will talk about how granular materials can self-segregate themselves (complication the task of industrial mixing) and how they can self assemble into strange formations, such as “razorbacks.” Some of his findings undercut the claim that observed gullies on Mars are necessarily the result of flowing water. Meredith Betterton (Univ. Colorado, will report on snow spikes; Nigel Goldenfeld (Univ Illinois, on sedimentary terracing around Yellowstone’s hotsprings; Martin Short (UCLA) on how icicles get their shape; and Stephen Morris (Univ Toronto, on how lava shapes itself.


Monday, March 5, 1 pm


Colorado has the world's largest deposits of shale oil, rivaling the oil reserves of the Middle East, but in past years extracting the resource has been too expensive to make it feasible. Rising oil costs may soon change that. Douglas Schmitt (University of Alberta, will report on new seismic imaging methods to track the flow of heavy oils, such as those in Colorado's shale and Canada's abundant oil sands, when they are extracted via the injection of solvents or steam into the ground (paper A2.5). Accurate imaging of reservoirs will be vital if sand or shale oils are ever to become significant energy sources. Timothy Collett (U.S. Geological Survey, is pondering another unconventional energy source - icy combinations of natural gas and water known as hydrates (paper A2.4). The oceans contain enormous reserves of natural gas hydrates. Although estimates vary, even conservative guesses are an order of magnitude larger than the amounts held in conventional natural gas reserves. Collett will summarize the latest estimates of hydrate reserves and survey the various methods for extracting natural gas from them.


Monday, March 5, 3 pm


The 1987 March APS meeting was special because it featured a nearly-all-night session, dubbed the “Woodstock of Physics,” devoted to the cuprate superconductors discovered only a few months before.  Here we commemorate the 20th anniversary of Woodstock and the 50th anniversary of the theory that explains low-temperature superconductivity.  Paul Grant (IBM/EPRI/Stanford,, one of many speakers at session B1) will describe what happened at the Woodstock session and the current status of high temperature superconducting (HTSC) applications.  Georg Bednorz (IBM,, who won the physics Nobel Prize along with Alex Muller for their HTSC breakthrough, will describe the events of 1986/87.  Paul Chu (Univ. Houston,, the first to push HTSC materials into the liquid-nitrogen temperatures, will report on efforts to push critical temperatures still higher.  Finally, Douglas Scalapino (UC Santa Barbara, will compare the highly successful BCS theory that applies to low-temperature superconductors to their cuprate counterparts; the effort to create such a theory has been described by some as the grandest goal of theoretical condensed matter physics. (Some pictures from the 1987 meeting will be available at the Physics News Graphics website,


Tuesday, March 6, 9:30 am


Watching and analyze the behavior of living organisms with the tools of physics, researchers will present new discoveries showing that even very simple organisms carry out surprisingly sophisticated strategies for survival.  Studying naturally produced "antifreeze proteins" that protect organisms from freezing in cold weather, Ido Braslavsky of Ohio University will show that the spruce budworm, a caterpillar-like insect found in North American forests, secretes a protein that attaches to certain bonds in ice crystals, but not to others.  Meanwhile, Frank Moss of the University of Missouri will show that the zooplankton hunts for food in water by engaging in a statistically nonrandom series of turning angles which optimize the food obtained in food patch of fixed size while foraging for a fixed time.   Liang Li of Princeton will present evidence that even a single-celled amoeba forages for food in a nonrandom way, and seems to "remember" its previous steps as it searches for food.  Frank Moss, paper D34,10 (, Liang Li, paper U35.4 (liangl@Princeton.EDU), Ido Braslavsky, J35.8 (


Tuesday, March 6, 11 am


Using optical techniques, David Nolte of Purdue will present the first three dimensional images that show how a tumor responds to the common anti-cancer drug colchicine.  These are the first images that quantitatively measure motion inside a living tumor and use this motion as a gauge of cellular response to cancer drugs.  In efforts that can suggest better clot-busting drugs, Andre Brown of the University of Pennsylvania will describe the discovery of a protein that acts as a molecular spring to keep blood clots structurally stable yet remain flexible enough to allow blood to flow through them.  Michael Deem's lab at Rice University has been using the tools of statistical physics to uncover better strategies for fighting HIV, and also for understanding how viruses and other microbes so easily transfer their genetic material to hosts such as humans.  Such "horizontal gene transfer" may help explain why the pace of evolution has accelerated rapidly since the first billion years of life on Earth. David Nolte, paper J21.8 (, Andre Brown, University of Pennsylvania, paper A26.9 (, Michael Deem, Rice University, papers D35.2, D35.14 (


Tuesday, March 6, 1:00 pm


Some lab-on-a-chip miniature test systems rely on bubbles to carry samples and reagents, or use bubbles to control the flow of various components through the system. Manu Prakash ( and colleagues at MIT have taken the approach to a whole new level by developing bubble-based devices that mimic the functions of electronic components, including flip-flops, logic gates (AND, OR, and NOT gates), and other devices (paper L30.4). Howard Stone (Harvard, is also finding new uses for bubbles by coating them in colloidal particles that create a type of protective armor, potentially leading to new kinds of microscopic packaging for chemicals and drugs, as well as fine-tuning the properties of products incorporating armored bubbles (paper B6.3). Bognan Dragnea (Indiana University, is building tiny packages as well, at much smaller scales than colloidal or logic bubbles. Dragnea builds virus-like molecular cages that may soon lead to novel biomedical imaging methods and sensing tools, and potentially to new materials built of the virus-scale structures (paper L34.2).


Tuesday, March 6, 2 pm


Exemplifying the theme of the March APS meeting-fundamental research pointing toward handy applications-are two topics.  (1) Metamaterials, amalgams of tiny rods and rings, debuted at the March meeting in 2000, a time when only one or two groups worked on the topic.  Now dozens are working at exploiting these negative-index materials for producing perfect lensing and other odd optical properties.  Vladimir Shalaev (Purdue, will report on a new record-setting metamaterial (paper W38.1).  (2) Graphene, essentially 1-atom-thin carbon sheets, were presented at last year’s meeting by no more than a few groups.  Now there are dozens.  Pablo Jarillo-Herrero (Columbia Univ, reports the latest developments, including the useful development of graphene ribbons and graphene Josephson junctions (paper N28.1).


Wednesday, March 7, 10 am


Paul Kwiat of the University of Illinois (chair of session U2) will present an overview of the rapidly evolving field of quantum information.   Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna will present results on very long distance quantum communication and quantum cryptography, in which messages were sent wirelessly over a distance of 144 km between two Canary Islands.  Jian-Wei Pan of the University of Heidelberg and Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences in China will describe a six-photon quantum computer, an example of a new concept called open-ended quantum computation. NIST-Boulder's David Wineland will discuss progress in making hardware for quantum computers and information processors.   His group works on ion traps, presently the most technically advanced quantum-computer approach and he will present a promising new multiple-electrode, single-plane ion-trap design that potentially prevents ions from overheating, which is currently the bane of all ion-trap groups. Paul Kwiat (, David Wineland, paper D2.2 (, Anton Zeilinger, paper U2.1 (, Jian-Wei Pan, paper U2.2 (


Wednesday, March 7, 1 pm


A new imaging system could surreptitiously identify people carrying concealed weapons with the use of detectors derived from instrumentation that has long been a mainstay in astronomical observations. Unlike low energy x-ray scanners, which expose people to low doses of radiation, the system that Panu Helisto (VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, will describe detects the terahertz radiation that people and warm objects naturally emit all the time (paper Y39.1). The sensors don't reveal anatomical details that show up on some other clothes-piercing scanners, which may make them ideal security scanners for airports and other public spaces.  C. Jeffrey Brinker (University of New Mexico,, on the other hand, is building microbe-based biosensors with living cells embedded in silica film. Brinker has found that some microbes can direct the assembly of nanostructures in a drying silica film to build tiny sanctuaries that keep them moist and even protect them from the high vacuum conditions of an electron microscope. Brinker will discuss recent work towards integrating the encapsulated cells into solid-state devices, such as cell-based sensors for detecting chemical and biological weapons (paper P42.1).


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 51,000 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, DC.

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