Catching Up With EPS Activities in 1996
While the APS went about its business with meetings, educational outreach, journal publishing, and public policy concerns throughout 1996, sister organization, the European Physical Society (EPS) was busily engaged with organizing international conferences on solar physics and atomic spectroscopy, and expressing concern over proposed budgetary changes at CERN and future support for basic research within the European Union.
Solar Physics. Approximately 170 scientists from 24 countries gathered in Thessaloniki, Greece, in May for the 8th trienniel sectional conference, organized by the Solar Physics Section of the joint EPS-European Astronomical Society Astrophysics Division. The invited review talks covered such traditional topics as the solar interior and oscillations, the physics of flux tubes and waves, restructuring of magnetic fields, and particle acceleration physics, as well as current issues in the heliosphere and cosmic rays and new instrumentation. A special afternoon session was devoted to SOHO, a satellite with important European involvement that was in orbit at the time of the conference.
EPS Opinion on Basic Research. In August, the EPS Executive Committee circulated a letter commenting on the policy underlying the European Union's framework programs, which are largely application-oriented. The letter emphasized the widely recognized role of basc research for the long-term development of technology, industry and economy. "We do not expect that physics should enjoy privileged treatment, but it should obtain an adequate support if account is taken of its benefits to society in the general understanding of Nature, in applications in technology and medicine, and as the methodological basis for other sciences, such as chemistry, biosciences and geosciences," the committee wrote. "It has also pioneered the introduction of communication networks, new methods of teaching and the use of large facilities. Research networks in physics have been spearheading international collaboration in an oustanding way."
The EPS Executive Committee offered several specific suggestions for strengthening the scientific infrastructure in Europe. These include (1) continued strong support for training in high-level research; (2) increased support of scientific conferences, which contribute to better cooperation between countries, as well as improved relations between academia and industry; (3) increased support of large research facilities, which provide an excellent infrastructure for interdisciplinary research and international cooperation; and (4) awarding grants to small companies, often developed in the incubator units of universities, which act as seeds of future growth for European industry, as well as ideal interfaces between the academic and commercial worlds.
EGAS Conference Highlights. Atomic spectroscopy continues to flourish and develop rapidly, judging from the numerous presentations featured at the 28th Conference of the European Group for Atomic Spectroscopy (EGAS), held in July at the Technical University of Graz' Institute for Experimental Physics. The entire manifold of atomic spectroscopy was covered in the invited and contributed papers, including atomic theory, hyperfine structures, spectroscopic instruments, trapped neutrals and ions, atomic collisions, interactions with photons, radiative lifetimes, XUV and X-ray emission, plasma spectroscopy, and highly resolved molecular spectra.
The conference opened with a talk by M.O. Scully (Texas Laser Lab) on accomplishments and perspectives of lasers without inversion, discussing the first experimental realization of such a laser and its theoretical modelling, based on quantum interferences, as well as its potential for future applications. The session also featured a talk on the interaction of multicharged ions with solid surfaces, particularly the production of hollow atoms and related phenomena. Electrons from the surface are captured by these ions into highly excited electronic states, which then emit x rays. Other processes that accompany the interaction include emission of Auger electrons and potential sputtering.
Another session focused on spectroscopy and quantum optics with trapped ions, giving special attention to several mechanisms of laser cooling of trapped ions. These trapped, ultra-cold particles can in turn be used to perform quantum mechanical experiments, such as the investigation of quantum jumps. The session also featured a discussion of the extension of spectroscopic applications of ion traps to hyperfine states of excited states using coherent Raman excitation (the so-called "dark resonances"). Also presented were recent results on light- induced mixing of autoionizing states, and on modifying continua structures by intense light pulses in one-valence electron systems and doubly excited states.
A special symposium on lasers in medicine opened with an overview of new developments in the field, concentrating on non-thermal applications of laser light for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes. It especially emphasized spectroscopic methods and applications. For example, using laser-induced auto- fluorescence of human tissue, regions of cancers at the surface can be distinguished from healthy tissue using the profile of the fluorescence spectrum. Laser-induced fluroescence analysis can easily be performed inside the body by combining it with endoscopic techniques.
Another lecture in the lasers in medicine symposium by G. Nilsson of Linkoping University introduced a new method of blood-flow diagnostics, based on investigating the Doppler broadening of laser light reflected from skin. In this case, a fast spectroscopic technique disperses the scattered light. The resulting information can be used, for example, to determine blood flow after severe burns to identify areas where a skin graft is necessary.
EPS High Energy Statement. In November, the Board of the EPS High Energy and Particle Physics Division issued a statement in response to indications that Germany and other CERN member states wished to reduce their CERN contributions for the coming year. The statement expressed appreciation of the unanimous support of the CERN member states for the Large Hadron Collider program, while expressing concern over the dramatic proposed budget changes. The CERN Council was urged to adopt long-term budgetary measures to allow CERN to complete the LHC on time, in a safe and responsible manner, without reducing drastically the generous support of the overall scientific program.